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Cosmetic Testing on Animals Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2019


Cosmetics have become a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of consumers around the world. Items such as lipsticks, lip gloss, eye shadow, concealers, moisturizers, skin whiteners, blush, and an assortment of other products are bought on a daily basis by female consumers in order conform to the current societal view of beauty.

However, the procedures utilized in ensuring that the products that are sold conform to a certain level of safety and allergenicity are done through the use of animal testing procedures (Abbott, 144-146). On average, nearly 14 million animals are utilized by cosmetic companies around the world to test particular types of cosmetics during product creation as well as prior to export to various countries.

Of those 14 million animals, nearly 1 million of them are comprised of animals such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, various types of hamsters and even small primates (Abbott, 144-146). The reason why animal testing in the cosmetics industry often involves the use of animals such as rabbits, mice, rats and other types of animals is to ensure that certain types of cosmetics can be applied onto the surface of the skin or near the eye without causing significant allergic reactions.

The surface of the skin or near the eyes of such animals is meant to simulate that of the average human and, as such, is one of easiest methods of determining whether are particular type of chemical compound, when applied over a prolonged period of time, could cause significant levels of irritation or could result in possible chemical poisoning (Abbott, 144-146).

Unfortunately, such methods of testing can often result in severe discomfort or even serious pain in the case of some testing procedures since some cosmetic ingredients are often applied directly onto the mucous membranes of the lab animal. Areas such as the nose, mouth, or eye are often subjected to an assortment of chemicals and procedures which cause mild to severe irritations.

In fact, some studies show that a percentage of these tests could be classified as a form of torture given the severe and prolonged amount of pain that some testing procedures inflict upon the animals being tested. Another area of ethical concern is the way in which some animals are not treated after the testing has been accomplished. Instead, they are disposed of through euthanasia while another batch of animals are brought in for further testing.

Nearly 50 percent of all animals that are utilized in cosmetic testing procedures die within 3 weeks due to the various chemical compounds they are exposed to as well as their possible side-effects.

Given that cosmetic testing procedures subject animals to prolonged and painful testing which can last from hours to days with, it must be questioned whether the continued usage of animals in cosmetic testing procedures is acceptable since there is little actual benefit to humanity aside from improving an individual’s artificial aesthetic appeal.

Necessity of Cosmetic Testing on Animals

The concept of consumer protection is at the forefront of the debate involving animal testing given that it is necessary to implement some measure of ensuring that products that are sold and applied on the human body do not create any adverse effects. Arguments such as those presented by Kolar (2006) illustrates this point by explaining that the requirements behind human testing procedures are complex to the point that it would delay the production of new types of cosmetic products.

Not only that, there are an assortment of procedural requirements and limitations on the types of tests that can be applied to the point that very little data can actually be obtained before government regulations involving the degree of harm to humans come into play to prevent the testing procedure from progressing (Kolar, 111-122).

While the European Union may have banned the importation of cosmetics where animal testing has occurred, the fact remains that countries such as the U.S., Japan, and various other major consumer centers mandate the use of animals in cosmetic testing to ensure that they can be utilized by local consumers (Europe Enacts Full Ban On Animal Testing For Cosmetics, 14).

It is due to this mandate that cosmetic testing goes unabated within such countries. In order to better understand the justifications behind the necessity of animal testing the concept of rhetoric will be examined to determine how the argument behind cosmetic testing on animals has been formulated.

Rhetoric can be described as the use of language in order to achieve a persuasive effect on people in other words it is a form of delivery that entails being able to convince people of the validity of the argument being given. On the other hand under Aristotle’s treatise on rhetoric the concept of ethos is thus defined as credibility of a speaker in which through this credibility they are able to convince people that he/ she is believable in what he/she is saying.

In the case of the ethos behind cosmetic testing on animals, the projected principles that define it, namely: ensuring the distribution of a safe product, ensuring the health and well-being of their customers as well as valuing their business were in effect created in order to create an image that would justify their actions.

Cosmetic companies are trying to justify their actions by stating that through their own experiences in this current field of interest they know what works as an effective means of ensuring progressive attitudes in development of their products. What must be taken into consideration is the fact that upon examination the ethos of cosmetic testing on animals does indeed promote a distinct degree of health and well-being for the general public.

If Aristotle’s treatise on rhetoric is to be used then it can be said that the position the cosmetic companies are taking in trying to be persuasive in their message is one based on the concept of ethos in which they justify their request based on their expertise in their field.

What must be understood though is that while such a method of argument is in fact rather effective in the case of the cosmetic industry, one cannot help but think their ethos is rather self-serving in terms of allowing them to justify their future actions in terms of what they believe is right especially when taking into consideration the apparently unethical nature of their testing procedures.

Current Problems in Preventing Cosmetic Testing on Animals

Lack of Sufficient Protection for certain Animal Species

An examination of the various rules and regulations involving animal testing procedures shows that certain types of rodents (i.e. rats, mice, rabbits etc.) reptiles and avian species are actually not protected under the USDA Animal Welfare Act.

As such, it does come as much of a surprise that a vast majority of animals that are utilized in cosmetic testing at the present are comprised of such animals. While animal rights groups such as PETA and Greenpeace have lobbied for the implementation of the abolishment of animal testing in not only the U.S. but in other countries as well, the fact remains that the safety of products for human consumptions trumps that of the lives of what are now known as “lesser species”.

The main problem when it comes to erecting proper legislative mechanisms for the protection of animals during product testing procedures it that present day laws lack a sufficient method of discrimination between animal testing that has beneficial effects on human health and welfare and those that are merely for aesthetic purposes (Kolar, 111-122).

Animal testing procedures that lead to breakthroughs that save human lives are worlds apart from testing that is merely utilized for corporate profits and aesthetic appeal. Cosmetic testing does not save human lives and is merely a method creating a method of aesthetic appeal.

When balancing the millions of animals that are needlessly tortured on a yearly basis with the need to create types of makeup to make a person merely look better, it is obvious that lives take precedence over simply “looking good”. Unfortunately such a distinction is not present within present day methods of legislation.

Animal testing has become a generalized concept instead of being thought of as a scientific process that is comprised of a myriad of variations. In fact, Davis (2001) explains that this lack of distinction is actually a result of legislative efforts by cosmetic companies to ensure that their research facilities in particular countries are not adversely impacted by the development of legislation that would outright ban their type of animal testing (Davis, 60).

By creating a generalized conceptualization instead of a more specific means of addressing the issue of animal testing, present day legislators ensure that millions of animals each year continue to suffer at the hands of pharmaceutical companies.

Transferability of Testing Labs from One International Location to another

While the use of animals in cosmetic testing has effectively been banned in the E.U. and the U.K., this has merely resulted in the testing labs that used to be in such countries to merely be moved to other locations where such legislation does not exist (Ulmer, 28).

At the present, there is no broad spectrum ban against the use of animals to test out various types of makeup and, as such, even if several prominent countries were to ban the practice it would take less than a month for a new research lab to be established in another location.

Studies have shown that there are literally hundreds of cosmetic research labs in the U.S., China, Japan, Australia and other such countries that deal extensively with ensuring that new types of cosmetic products are safe for human use (Ulmer, 28).

High Demand for Effective Cosmetics among the General Public

At the present, there is a considerable level of demand by women around for cosmetics. Our culture is obsessed with the idea of perfect beauty; flawless skin, blemish free features, thin waistlines, striking eyes, perfect noses and not a pimple in sight, yet, such an obsession has been fueled by what is considered as a socially “acceptable” presentation of the concept of beauty.

As it can be seen in the case of the U.K. and European print media industry, “color” plays as much a factor as the overall appearance of a model. This evidenced by the sheer amount of toning and whitening products that are either meant to whiten a person’s appearance or created a “tanned look” to make them seem like that they have been under the sun.

What must be understood is that the present day definition of beauty is not part of a set standard (aside from considering symmetry to be beautiful), rather, throughout the years there have been various definitions of beauty ranging from hour glass figures, full figured women and even those who by today’s standards can be considered fat.

All of these standards of beauty have been in one way or another influenced by the predominate popular culture at the time. Popular culture plays an important role in defining what is beautiful and what is not, unfortunately it so happens that the present day definition is one akin to considering individuals that are white and pale as being beautiful.

At the present, “natural beauty” (i.e. beauty without makeup) is actually not viewed as being beautiful at all. Women are only considered beautiful if they have applied the correct kind of foundation, utilized their eyeliners properly and have glamorized their looks to a considerable level.

With this obsession over improving one’s beauty comes the equally obsessive desire to look unique. This has given rise to the development of newer types of cosmetic products which promise to create a deeper level of red, to create a more efficient method of applying a foundation and to create deeper and better looking lashes. This has made cosmetics a multi-billion dollar industry and, as a result, encourages continued cosmetic testing on animals in order to create a new “look” for customers.

Lack of Sufficient Awareness among the General Public Regarding the Cruelty of Cosmetic Testing on Animals

Studies such as those seen in the article “Cosmetic Solutions Covering Up Reality” (2002) indicate that an insufficient level of public awareness towards the processes that go into cosmetics leads to the continued proliferation of animal testing practices in the industry (Cosmetic Solutions Covering Up Reality, 18).

For example, the article “Animal Testing and the Issues It Raises” (2006) points to various survey based methods of examination where consumers were showed pictures and informed of the practices of various types of cosmetics.

Afterwards, they were asked whether such practices encouraged them to purchase a particular cosmetic brand since it was safe due to meticulous testing procedures or if they were more likely to avoid the brand given its connection with inhumane methods of testing and examination (Animal Testing and the Issues It Raises, 1).

Those that were examined unanimously agreed that they would not have bought that particular brand of cosmetic if they had known that inhumane animal testing practices were being utilized.

On the other hand, it was noted that while consumers stated that they would not buy a brand which they knew subjected animals to such cruelty, they themselves stated that they were unaware that such practices were going on nor did they know which company or brand is responsible for the various animal testing practices at the present.

This shows that the general public does not know any better regarding what really goes on in the cosmetics industry and whether the products they patronize have been developed utilizing unethical methods of production through animal cruelty.

The Ethical Dilemma of Performing Cosmetic Testing on Animals

The problem with utilizing animals in cosmetic testing procedures at the present is the questionable gain that is derived from their usage (Uncage Them, 17). In medical testing procedures animals are subject to a variety of tests and procedures with the end goal of developing a process that would help to save human lives in the future.

New surgical techniques, a variety of vaccines, new types of medication and other such benefits that originate from animal testing for medical knowledge helps to justify their use in such procedures especially when taking into consideration the potentially adverse effects such chemicals or procedures could have on human volunteers for experimentation.

However, when examining the potentially beneficial effects of cosmetic testing on animals there is little that can help to justify the significant loss of animal life (PCRM Asks Cosmetics Companies to Come Clean about Animal Testing, 14). For one thing, cosmetic testing does not create any beneficial medical effect on humans to the extent that it can either save or prolong a human life.

Studies have even shown that the prolonged use of cosmetics can actually be detrimental toward an individual’s face due to blocked pores and long term exposure to a variety of chemicals.

Animals that are part of such procedures are normally exposed to a variety of chemicals and solvents to the extent that investigations into the procedures utilized showed that it was common for severe bleeding to occur, for eyes to literally swell and pop out of their sockets, for the skin to inflame, crack and bleed into the surrounding fur and other similar instances that result in significant pain and discomfort for the animals.

Further compounding the ethical ramifications of the issue is the fact that these animals are not subject to any form of pain relief such as anesthesia or even tranquilizers to keep them unaware of what is happening to them.

The reasoning behind such actions is the fact that the implementation of cosmetic testing procedures on animals is not legally mandated to provide methods of pain relief and, as such, the practice of utilizing pain killers or tranquilizers is not utilized given the added cost of utilizing them as well as the necessity of ensuring that the test subjects move in a “normal” fashion.

Animals that are subjected to these procedures are left in pain for days or weeks at a time as scientists examine the progression of irritation or bleeding which enables them to determine the correct type of dosage to use at a later date (Uncage Them, 17). Some animals are in fact reused extensively with one half of the animal being subject to one test at a time until such a point that sufficient scientific data has been derived from the tests.

It is only at this point that they are promptly disposed of and the next batch of test subjects are subjected to the same type of horrendous treatment. Unfortunately, some of the test subjects fail to reach the point where they are disposed of after days or weeks or agonized testing (Uctas, 38).

Given the diverse array of toxicology characterizations evident into some of the products that are tested on the animals what occurs is usually a prolonged and violent death due to chemical poisoning or the body simply giving up as a result of the severe pain and bleeding that at times occurs.

After analyzing the various circumstances that animals that are subject to cosmetic testing undergo, it becomes clear that what is occurring is a clear and brutal form of prolonged torture. Actions where researchers knowingly subject animals to dangerous and painful procedures with no actual benefit than aesthetics for a select few people that can afford makeup is ethically questionable (Uctas, 38).

The most damning aspect of cosmetic testing procedures it that despite the sheer amount of testing that does occur, nearly 97 percent of all cases of testing fail to reach the market since the effect of testing the same product on humans yields different results than in animals.

The mere fact that 97 percent of all tests can be considered useless procedures where animals were needlessly tortured and killed for nothing showcases how cosmetic testing at the present is not only ethically irresponsible but is also abhorrent in that it is needlessly torturing animals for results that turn out to be useless.

While such testing could have been understandable during the 16th to 18th century where scientific methods of analysis were still in their infancy and lacked the modern technical knowledge that we possess today, the fact remains that since the technology and capability exists in the present then such processes should be implemented instead of needlessly torturing animals.

Present Day Alternatives to Cosmetic Testing on Animals

It should be noted that there are actually a variety of alternatives to present day animal testing procedures such as the Agarose Diffusion Method, cell tissue testing using transepithelial electrical resistance as well as the Critical Micelle Concentration Test (Hunter, 26).

These alternatives can help to determine allergenicity towards particular chemical compounds just as well if not better than traditional animal testing procedures. The only problem really is that these have yet to become industry standards due to the level of uncertainty behind their usage as well as the inherent cost involved in shifting from one method of testing to another.

Works Cited

Abbott, Alison. “Animal Testing: More Than A Cosmetic Change.” Nature 438.7065 (2005): 144-146. Academic Search Premier. Web.

“Animal Testing And The Issues It Raises.” Animal Testing & The Issues It Raises (2006): 1. Science Reference Center. Web.

“Cosmetic Solutions Covering Up Reality.” Ecologist 32.2 (2002): 18. Academic Search Premier. Web.

Davis, Don. “Small Gleam Of Sanity.” Global Cosmetic Industry 168.2 (2001): 60. Business Source Premier. Web.

“Europe Enacts Full Ban On Animal Testing For Cosmetics.” Dermatology Times 34.4 (2013): 14. MasterFILE Premier. Web.

Hunter, Beatrice Trum. “New Alternatives In Safety Testing.” Consumers’ Research Magazine 83.5 (2000): 26. MasterFILE Premier. Web.

Kolar, Roman. “Animal Experimentation.” Science & Engineering Ethics 12.1 (2006): 111-122. Academic Search Premier. Web.

“PCRM Asks Cosmetics Companies To Come Clean About Animal Testing.” Good Medicine 21.4 (2012): 14. MasterFILE Premier. Web.

Uctas, Rachel. “Testing Times.” ICIS Chemical Business 273.14 (2008): 38. MasterFILE Premier. Web.

Ulmer, Rich. “The Future of Safety Testing Labs.” Global Cosmetic Industry Aug. 2007: 28. Vocational and Career Collection. Web.

“Uncage Them!.” Ecologist 31.2 (2001): 17. Academic Search Premier. Web.

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"Cosmetic Testing on Animals." IvyPanda, 25 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/animal-testing-3/.

1. IvyPanda. "Cosmetic Testing on Animals." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/animal-testing-3/.


IvyPanda. "Cosmetic Testing on Animals." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/animal-testing-3/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Cosmetic Testing on Animals." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/animal-testing-3/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Cosmetic Testing on Animals'. 25 May.

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