Animal right activists get very exorcised over labs testing various cosmetic products on animals. But for all their protesting, safety must be proved before marketing, and that generally means using animals in order to prove that the product or its ingredient are fit for human consumption.
Based on an animal welfare analysis, cosmetic testing would seem to have the lowest urgency. I mean, who needs the new color of lipstick or perfume scent? Perhaps seeing the handwriting on the wall, L’Oreal is funding research into a sophisticated computer programs that could—hopefully—make animal testing of new cosmetic products obsolete. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:
The $1.2 million dollars from L’Oreal will allow the EPA to continue to calibrate a computer model that tests how toxic certain chemicals are, said David Dix, deputy director of the EPA’s National Center for Computational Toxicology. “Using state-of-the art methods, we hope to show that products can be proven safe for the consumer without the use of animals,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional EPA administrator. The system, called ToxCast, uses complex mathematical algorithms and computer testing to determine if a particular product could cause harm to humans. But researchers must use earlier results of animal testing to confirm that the computer-aided testing is accurate, said Monica Linnenbrink, an EPA spokeswoman. L’Oreal has agreed to provide the EPA with results of animal testing for 20 chemicals - yet to be determined - that can be used by EPA scientists to calibrate their animal-free method.
I sure hope this experiment succeeds and good on L’Oreal for trying. But the crucial bottom line remains human safety. The other option is to stop developing new cosmetics and ingredients. That seems to be the course chosen by the EU, which has already banned animal testing of cosmetics and will outlaw the sale of all cosmetics in which ingredients were tested on animals anywhere in the world, starting in 2013.