On June 19, 2018, the Senate passed federal Bill S-214, “An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics)” (the “Bill”) marking a step forward for animal lovers in Canada.
The Bill would prohibit cosmetic animal testing in Canada as well as the sale of cosmetic products or ingredients newly tested on animals elsewhere in the world. Specifically:
- No cosmetic animal testing in Canada. Cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients could not be topically applied or internally administered to an animal for the purpose of evaluating safety or efficacy.
- No evidence derived from animal testing. Evidence based on animal testing that was conducted after the Bill is in force could not be submitted or otherwise used to establish the safety of a cosmetic or a cosmetic ingredient.
- The Minister will have the discretion to authorize and approve animal testing. Approval would only be granted where there is no other alternative method available to evaluate specific human health problems associated with a cosmetic or an ingredient in a cosmetic that is in wide use and cannot be replaced by another cosmetic or ingredient of a cosmetic capable of performing a similar function. Public consultations are required before the Minister would grant approval.
In comparison to some other countries, Canada has been lagging behind in taking a stand against animal testing. The European Union banned cosmetic animal testing within its borders in 2009 and, in 2013, went even further by establishing a complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing, regardless of where in the world the testing took place. Cosmetic animal testing is also banned in several other countries, including Norway, Switzerland, Israel, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and multiple states in Brazil. Nonetheless, 80% of countries still have no laws against animal testing in cosmetics, although this may change. The Body Shop—the pioneer behind the ban on animal testing in the beauty industry—is taking its Forever Against Animal Testing campaign to the United Nations to request an international convention banning cosmetics testing on animals. Similarly, the European Parliament recently voted overwhelmingly to push for a global ban on cosmetic animal testing. The Members of European Parliament noted that the EU ban on cosmetic testing has not negatively impacted the industry, but at times its effects are undermined by the fact that other markets don’t have similar bans in place. It is expected that the Bill will strengthen Canada’s trade with the growing number of global markets banning cosmetic animal testing, including the EU.
Consumer trends are undeniably shifting towards cruelty-free products, and at least one study has found that 80% of Canadians oppose testing cosmetics on animals. Canadians have not been afraid to express their views on the issue: they have been protesting, creating petitions and spreading awareness for some time. Companies like Lush and The Body Shop have public petitions in each of their stores for customers to sign, as well as offer a complete line of products that are 100% cruelty-free.
While the passing of the Bill is generally good news, some implications remain unclear. For example, the definition of “cosmetics” found in the Food and Drugs Act is quite narrow, meaning that products seen by the average Canadian as cosmetics are often not regulated as such by the government, an example being some lipsticks which are regulated as drugs and others as cosmetics. While Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, the sponsor of the Bill, has attempted to address the regulatory issue by including a clause amending section 18.3 of the Food and Drugs Act giving the government authority to designate drugs to be treated as cosmetics for the purposes in the Act, eliminating definitional issues would require a more broad policy change. Further, many ingredients found in cosmetics are also found in other consumer goods like foods, drugs and household products, yet the Bill does not prohibit animal testing for these goods. As a result, the Bill may potentially require Health Canada to apply different standards for the same ingredient based on the category of the product.
The Bill is now in front of the House of Commons and the House of Commons still needs to vote on the Bill before it can become law. Should it receive royal assent as drafted, there would be a phase-in period to allow the industry to transition.