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Second Reading of Bill S-214, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics)


Honourable senators, I rise today in support of Bill S-214, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics).

As an avid animal lover and supporter of the SPCA, I could not pass up the opportunity to speak to such an important bill, a piece of legislation quickly becoming the way forward in the global cosmetic market. I would like to express my support for Bill S-214 and explain why Canada should unite with its counterparts in the cruelty-free movement.

The European Union and European Free Trade Association passed an historical ban on animal testing of finished cosmetic products from 2004, ingredients from 2009, and finally a ban on marketing all animal-tested products and ingredients from March 11, 2013. Other important cosmetic markets such as Norway, Israel, India, New Zealand and Turkey followed them by enacting similar legislation against animal testing to protect the welfare and safety of our most vulnerable creatures.

The European Union is the world's largest beauty products market. With the sales ban in force in 28 countries across the EU, along with the other countries to recently impose bans or partial bans on animal-tested products, some Canadian cosmetic companies have significant barriers in accessing international markets. The markets of Europe, Norway, Israel and India cater to over 1.7 billion consumers worldwide in total on just cosmetics. Should the United States pass a sales ban proposed under their "Humane Cosmetics Act," Canadian companies will face even tougher obstacles. The United States "Humane Cosmetics Act" would prohibit the testing of cosmetics on animals and a ban on selling or transporting any product in the U.S. if it has been developed or manufactured using animal testing.

Although there is a comprehensive general trend towards the protection of animals, it is still legal in 80 per cent of countries to conduct cosmetic testing on animals. There are a variety of tests that are currently conducted on animals for the purpose of assessing the safety of cosmetics and beauty products. Some of the most common ones include skin, eye and oral tests.

According to the Humane Society International, skin sensitization tests are used to assess allergic reactions and are performed by applying a substance to the surface of the skin of a rabbit, guinea pig, rat or mouse. This test can be conducted by shaving the animal and applying the substance topically or by injecting the substance under the skin. In mice, substances can be applied by injection to the sensitive inner ear. The potential effects to the animal's skin may show signs of redness, ulcers, scaling, inflammation and itchiness. Another skin test commonly performed assesses for skin irritation and corrosion, which is severe and irreversible skin damage. Substances that are applied to a shaved animal's skin in this test may also show signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation and/or other signs of damage.

Eye tests are also performed, typically on rabbits, in which the animal has a substance applied directly into the eyes. Reactions may include redness, bleeding, ulcers or other severe effects that could be irreversible. Some products tested on the eyes of animals include eyelash-waving products, mascaras and shampoos, and are comprised of harmful chemicals.

Oral tests are also performed on animals. Unfortunately, these painful tests go much further than topical applications. Every year, animals around the world are subject to oral toxicity tests. These tests force the animal to consume, by injection, inhalant or ingestion, chemicals or other harsh substances to determine the safety of a product or ingredient. This test may result in changes to cells or organs, cause birth defects, infertility, cancer or death. Some of these tests are conducted with ingredients that may go into the production of beauty items such as lipsticks. The animals subjected to these tests are not given any kind of pain- management care and often suffer through the side-effects of these tests in extreme discomfort.

As Senator Stewart Olsen told us yesterday, nearly 200,000 animals still suffer and die every year in the name of cosmetics and beauty products.

Honourable senators, if we could eliminate even a small percentage of this number by passing Bill S-214, it would be an enormous success for Canada and would free a significant number of animals from unnecessary pain and suffering.

Traditionally, it was thought that animals did not have a sense of mental consciousness and their welfare was not always considered. When cosmetic chemical testing on animals began in the 1930s, it was largely believed that animals could neither think nor feel. This ideology can be traced back in part to the 17th century philosopher RenØ Descartes. Descartes believed animals were merely robots that simply co-existed with humans. He and his school of thought argued that animals only responded automatically to the stimuli they were exposed to and had no real ability to think or feel. One of his followers, Nicolas Malebranche, once said that animals "eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it: they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing."

Fast-forward 350 years, and we now know that this simply is not the case. Research indicates that animals do in fact think, and display both simple and complex thought processes in many forms. Scientific studies performed over the last century tend to side with Charles Darwin, who theorized that perhaps the differences in species are differences in degree rather than in kind, that if "we" as humans have something, then "they" as animals must have it too. There are a variety of species shown to exhibit behaviours that demonstrate mental consciousness and emotion, such as pleasure, pain and fear.

Take, for example, common experiments using fear conditioning. This is performed when an animal is placed in a new or novel environment and then exposed to aversive stimuli such as electric shock. When the animal later returns to that environment, it will demonstrate signs of uneasiness such as freezing: a common and recognized response to fear. Experiments such as these teach us that animals are capable of making associations and therefore demonstrate some degree of thought process.

One could argue that the display of emotion such as fear is simply an instinct. However, it leaves some sophisticated animal behaviours unanswered, such as the exhibition of concern, pity or empathy.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, an elephant expert who spent years studying African elephants, observed a herd living in a reserve in Northern Kenya. This particular herd adapted their entire travel and forage patterns for a young female member of the group who was called Babyl, as she had been severely crippled and could not keep pace with the others. The entire group changed their pace to protect the vulnerable elephant from predators for an incredible 15 years. Douglas-Hamilton said they would be known to walk for a while, then stop to see where Babyl was, and would either wait or proceed depending on how she was doing. Douglas-Hamilton even reported that the matriarch of the herd would feed Babyl on occasion. The injured elephant could do nothing in return for the herd, so it was obvious the group had nothing to gain from catering to her. One could only conclude that they adjusted their behaviour so she could remain with the group out of friendship and compassion.

Another example comes from the work of Hal Markowitz, who worked mainly at the Portland Zoo in Oregon and is credited for pioneering research often referred to as "behavioural engineering." Over his career he developed a number of mechanical devices that would deliver food to animals upon completion of a task. During one experiment, he trained monkeys to exchange plastic tokens for food by inserting them in a slot at a dispenser. Remarkably, when the oldest female of the group had trouble putting her token in the slot, a younger male, unrelated to her, put her token in the machine for her and stood back to let her eat.

Research shows that even rats are capable of demonstrating compassion. Rats, a typical test subject for animal cosmetic testing, were put to the test in 1959 by Russell Church of Brown University. Church set up a cage divided in two, which allowed laboratory rats in one half of the cage to receive food by pressing a lever. At the same time the rats pressed this lever to get food, the rats in the other side of the cage received an electric shock. When the first group realized that pushing the lever that rewarded them with food simultaneously gave their counterparts an electric shock, the group dramatically decreased the rate at which they pressed the lever, indicating sympathy. The rats were willing to give up the necessity of food for the sake of the rats on the electric side of the cage. Church observed that the reduction in lever- pressing persisted up to 10 days in the group who realized their peers were being shocked, and also noted that the group who received the shock showed greater fear to the pain of others rather than experiencing the pain themselves.

If these animals, from giant elephants to monkeys to tiny rats, can all demonstrate emotion such as empathy and kindness, surely they are capable of simple thought processes and basic emotions. Based on this research, I believe it can be argued that the animals subjected to cosmetic testing do in fact suffer physical and mental anguish.

This being said, it's important to acknowledge the scientific breakthroughs that were made possible by animal testing. Without the animal research conducted over the last 100 years, we would not have the same degree of medical knowledge on life- saving technologies such as penicillin, the development of various vaccines and how to effectively perform blood transfusions. However, subjecting animals to harmful chemicals and unknown substances for the sole purpose of esthetics is neither ethical nor necessary.

The good news is that we can still test the safety of cosmetics without compromising the emotional and physical integrity of animals. There are many modern tests that include the world's latest technologies to ensure beauty products are safe to use for humans. It is also important to consider that cosmetic animal testing is not necessarily indicative of the effects that certain chemicals and substances may have on humans. In fact, tests on animals are well known to have scientific limitations as predictors of outcomes on humans, according to Humane Society International. New, modern tests that use artificial human tissue are oftentimes more cost-effective and reliable than outdated animal testing and can better distinguish toxic from non-toxic cosmetic ingredients.

According to Humane Society International, there are now over 40 "validated" tests that have replaced cosmetic testing on animals and are both internationally practised and recognized. Government authorities and companies will accept these validated testing methods as they have proven to accurately identify products that may cause irritations to skin and/or eyes, or cause serious internal side effects.

One such test, the EpiDerm Skin Irritation test, was developed and validated for in vitro testing of chemicals for cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients. In this test, reconstructed human tissue is exposed to substances over a four-day period. After the tissue is incubated overnight, it's topically exposed to the test chemicals, which can be liquid, semi-solid or wax. Three tissues are used for each chemical or substance during the process to ensure accurate results. This test can be used as a full replacement of the rabbit skin irritation test, which I spoke of earlier, and is completely in line with the EU regulations set in March of 2013.

In response to the cosmetic testing ban of the European Union a symposium was held this past December in Brussels, gathering different stakeholders in the area of alternative safety assessments. Since the complete ban on cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients took effect in March 2013 in the EU, the symposium created an opportunity for the Director-General of Research and Innovation of the European Commission and Cosmetics Europe to launch several initiatives to research replacement technologies in toxicity testing. According to the SEURAT-1 website:

. . . the results of this Research Initiative will have an impact on many other areas of application such as drug development, food production, and safety assessment of industrial chemicals, plant protection products and biocides.

I encourage you to visit the Humane Society International's website for more information on these new and innovative tests, which are rapidly replacing cosmetic testing on animals in order to comply with changing market standards.

Not only are there cruelty-free methods of testing the safety of substances and products that are better predictors of effects on humans than traditional animal testing for beauty products, there are tens of thousands of raw ingredients now available to companies that have already proven to be safe. Many of these ingredients include natural products such as balsamic vinegar, lemon or honey. Other cruelty-free products include cetearyl alcohol, a white, waxy, solid material that is oil soluble and used as an emulsifier to thicken moisturizers and lotions. Natural products such as bee pollen have many health and beauty benefits as well. Bee pollen can be used in lotions to treat inflammatory conditions and common skin irritations like psoriasis or eczema. The amino acids and vitamins present in bee pollen protect the skin and help the regeneration of cells.

The economic benefits of going "cruelty free" are important to examine as well. John Chave, Director-General of Cosmetics Europe, a European trade association representing the interests of the cosmetics industry, said that the animal testing ban has not affected the cosmetic industry of Europe negatively, and that the safety level of cosmetics has not been compromised by the ban. In fact, new, innovative technologies being developed to test the safety of new substances have created jobs in Europe — something we could potentially anticipate in North America should Bill S-214 be passed, and of course if the legislation in the United States is passed.

In an interview in December, Chave said that the:

. . . cosmetics industry in Europe is responsible directly or indirectly for 1.7 million jobs. A lot of those jobs depend on our ability to innovate and create new products to grow the industry, and that is directly linked to our ability to validate alternative testing.

Companies who have made the commitment to be cruelty free are also an indicator for economic success in the cosmetic industry. Companies such as LUSH, Paul Mitchell, The Body Shop, Smashbox and Aveda have all made a pledge to the cruelty-free movement, and are examples of successful players in the cosmetics industry that provide jobs and contribute to the global economy.

Last year, the United Kingdom-based company LUSH reported an 8 per cent increase in sales and profits, bringing in 23.3 million euros of pre-tax profit. The Body Shop, a brand of L'OrØal, started the fight against animal testing in 1996 and was the first international cosmetic company to sign up to the Humane Cosmetics Standard, formal criteria for non-animal- tested cosmetic and toiletry products. In 2014, The Body Shop reported a 5.5 per cent growth in retail sales and a 6.5 per cent increase in new markets, an outstanding achievement in the world's cosmetic market. Many cosmetic manufacturers realize it's bad for business if consumers associate their beauty products with animal cruelty.

Honourable senators, testing cosmetics on animals is known as the ugly face of the beauty industry. The passing of Bill S-214 will not only serve to protect vulnerable animals but could cause ripple effects in our social consciousness and our economy. I lend my support to Bill S-214 and commend Senator Stewart Olsen for introducing such an important and significant bill, one that will allow Canada to keep pace with our global partners in the fight to help end cruelty to animals for cosmetics testing purposes. Thank you.