Illinois recently became the third U.S. state to ban animal testing, after California and Nevada passed similar legislation in the past year. The passing of bill SB 241 is a huge accomplishment and, hopefully, a step towards reducing the number of animals used for research purposes.
Last month, SB 241 passed in the legislature, and with the governor’s approval became Public Act 101-0303, which amends the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This new Act sets out that it is unlawful for a manufacturer to import, sell or offer for sale any cosmetic if the final product or any ingredient was developed or manufactured using animal testing. It will apply to animal testing conducted or contracted by the manufacturer from January 1, 2020. Anyone who violates the bill beginning next year will face fines: $5000 for the first day the violation begins, plus $1000 for every subsequent day of violation.
The bill was proposed by Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes, a democrat known for her work in protecting animals. Due to her initiative, Illinois was the first state to ban use of elephants in performance.
Holmes said, “Consumers’ expectations are moving toward products that are not tested on animals, and big personal product brands are changing their practices. There are alternative testing methods that are good for business, safe for consumers and certainly move us forward to a humane approach by eliminating the cruel practices of the past.”
As with any law, SB 241 has exceptions, often to comply with federal law. The prohibitions do not apply in a number of cases, including: if testing a cosmetic on animals is required by a federal or state regulatory authority; if testing was conducted to comply with a requirement of a foreign regulatory authority; and if testing was subject to the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not actually require cosmetics to be tested on animals to demonstrate that they are safe for human use. Despite this, nearly a million animals are used each year for research purposes in the U.S., which does not account for 100 million mice and rats.
Although the exceptions to the Illinois bill mean that animal testing in cosmetics will still be permitted in some form, SB 241 is a an important step in protecting animals from suffering unnecessary testing. It will limit the number of animal-tested cosmetics on the market, and hopefully it will set an example that influences other states to introduce similar legislation.
Animal testing in the U.S. is primarily regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This Act covers not only animal testing but also facilities that breed animals for commercial sale, methods of transport, and the exhibition of animals (e.g. zoos). The main purpose of this Act is to set minimum standards for how animals are obtained and maintained, including housing conditions, access to water, adequate nutrition, and protection from weather and adverse temperatures.
Critics of the AWA note that it does not fully protect animals from suffering; it regulates some basic minimum standards and applies only to a limited number of animal species: dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits. It excludes many vulnerable species: rats and mice used in research, livestock used for food, reptiles, birds, fish, and invertebrates. The Illinois bill, in contrast, applies to all vertebrates.
In the UK, approximately 4 million animals are used each year for scientific purposes.
The scientific experiments on animals in the UK are mainly regulated by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, with additional influence from European Union law. The experiments on animals should follow three principles called the “three R’s”- replacement (considering different methods of conducting the experiment), reduction (reducing the number of duplicated experiments) and refinement (using the minimum number of animals required, and involving animals with the lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity).
The EU passed legislation (Directive 2003/15/EC) that prohibited animal testing for cosmetic ingredients in the EU and, later, the marketing of cosmetic ingredients tested on animals. From 11 March 2013, it bans the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals after that date from anywhere in the world. The EU approach will hopefully be taken up in other countries and states worldwide.
In time, and with more jurisdictions following the lead of Illinois, Nevada, and California, perhaps products will have no need to test on animals at all. The Humane Society has stated, “Animal tests have scientific limitations, as different species respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. Consequently, results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans, as they can under- or overestimate real-world hazards to people”.