Could this signal the end of cosmetic animal testing?

It seems China could soon be removing a significant hurdle for beauty companies that support cruelty-free practices, according to an article by WWD. Newly seen regulations show that by the beginning of 2021, the country is aiming to create a new pathway so that imported ordinary cosmetics can be exempt from pre-market testing.

“Effective January 1, 2021, imported ordinary cosmetics such as shampoo, blush, mascara and perfume will no longer have to be animal-tested for eye and skin irritation in Chinese laboratories,” Human Society International said on Friday.

This move could prove momentous, as ordinary products such as the above make up the bulk of personal care products imported into China. Special cosmetics, such as those used for hair and skin colouring, sun protection, perming, children’s products, anti-hair loss and cosmetics claiming new effects, will still require animal testing in China.

Although the new regulations have not been set in stone – with a public consultation process still needing to take place, as well as fine-print to be released on how companies can file and meet criteria to forgo the testing – it still delivers an important framework.

“The signals are very strong, there’s no reason to believe we’re not on that trajectory,” Humane Society International vice president of research and toxicology, Troy Seidle, said. “All the language is encouraging.”

However, if the new move does go ahead, it will not prevent post-market testing, causing it to fall short of the cruelty-free standard set by several NGO groups. Nevertheless, Humane Society International believes it is a huge step in the direction of a cruelty-free future. For now, it would also save tens of thousands of animals’ lives.

“Although the concern doesn’t go away entirely, the relative amount of progress if we look at the numbers we can calculate when this goes through and companies have an alternative to the mandatory pre-market testing, it is a significant step toward cosmetics in China.…It’s a big deal,” Seidle said.

China took similar steps back in 2014, when it allowed companies to skip pre-market testing if products were locally manufactured. Separately, it currently allows beauty and personal care products to avoid testing if they are sold online. Last December, China even started a small pilot involving seven brands, where they could physically retail while retaining Leaping Bunny certification.