15 Aug 2015

Should Vegans Use Animal Tested Products?

The basic definition of veganism is pretty straight forward. We avoid eating or using animal products because we don't want them to suffer. We don't agree with their exploitation. But there are some caveats - some issues that don't quite fit within this basic definition. What about palm oil, for example? It's not an animal product, so technically it's vegan, but its production can cause animal suffering. Or, for the purpose of this article, what about animal tested products? If they don't contain animal-based ingredients, animal tested products are technically vegan, but they're definitely not ethical. And there are many different types of animal products to consider: cosmetics, medicine, household cleaners, soaps and toothpastes... where should vegans draw the line?

Let's start with cosmetics. From what I've heard, seen, and read, it's obvious that many people are against animal testing for cosmetic purposes. The PETA campaigns featuring tortured bunnies, cats and monkeys are shared far and wide. Most cosmetics brands will clearly label their packaging to illustrate their "against animal testing" status. Even the most popular makeup brands, such as Maybelline (once notorious for using animal testing) now advertise themselves as adamantly against this cruel practice. But there's more to it than this - things you wouldn't immediately notice - things that are hidden pretty deep.

When questioned about their stance on animal testing, Maybelline's representatives will state that they're totally against it unless there is a legal requirement set in place. The exact phrasing is as follows: exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes. We can't know exactly what this means, but it does sound suspicious. Some have suggested that Maybelline may outsource its product testing to countries where regulatory authorities demand animal testing. Caveats like this must be taken into consideration when discussing this complex ethical issue.

"Essentially, avoiding animal tested cosmetics isn't too difficult, and it's something vegans should definitely strive to do."

Essentially, avoiding animal tested cosmetics isn't too difficult, and it's something vegans should definitely strive to do. Veganism is about avoiding animal exploitation, and testing on animals purely to create cosmetic products is a really horrible form of exploitation. So, let's avoid supporting this practice by only purchasing products clearly labelled as "cruelty-free".

Animal tested household cleaners, soaps and toothpastes are also fairly easy to avoid. Finding these items in a cruelty-free form isn't as easy as finding cruelty-free cosmetics, since they're usually not clearly labelled as such, but it isn't difficult. There are plenty of expansive lists of cruelty-free cleaners, soaps and toothpastes listed online. This list from PETA may be useful.

It's terrible that these innocent creatures are forced to suffer - but what if there are no alternatives?

Even with lists like PETA's available, there are still come caveats. I did some research and found that some people have challenged the authenticity of PETA's cruelty-free list. Apparently, the only requirement for a company to appear on the list is to sign an agreement with PETA stating that they don't test. But, according to this article by Cruelty Free Kitty, these companies may have suppliers that do test on animals. Make sure to read the article to find out more, and check out the rest of the site for more info on how to find genuinely cruelty-free products. Vegans should take this information into consideration when making purchases.

Now let's move on to animal tested medicine - one of the most controversial subjects surrounding veganism. As it stands, animal testing is mandatory for medication. The general consensus is that it's a "necessary evil" because no suitable alternatives are currently available. To make matters worse, medicine isn't something vegans can choose to avoid - sometimes we need it. Sometimes we'll die without it.

I could go into detail about animal testing for medicinal purposes, but I'm not a chemist or a scientist. I don't know enough about the subject. If you want to read more about why medicinal animal testing is so widespread, you can read about it here.

"According to the FDA, 'There are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and non-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option.'"

In essence, medicine must be tested before it can be used on humans, or all sorts of legal troubles could arise. People could be killed. Testing has to happen, and unfortunately, animals are the innocent victims. According to the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration), "There are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and non-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option." This is very unfortunate, but as far as I know, there isn't much vegans can do about it right now. We just have to wait until the right scientific advancements are made.

Some medicines also contain animal products (i.e. lactose in contraceptive pills), and this falls into the same category. Until there are better options available, there's not much we can do. We can try our best to stay healthy and use natural medicine as much as possible, but some people have health issues that require medication, and in my opinion, they shouldn't be made to feel guilty for using animal tested medication. If they really need to take it, they're still vegan. Veganism isn't about being perfect, it's about doing the best you can.

To sum up, I think vegans should do their best to avoid using animal tested products, especially with non-necessary items like cosmetics, dyes, and other beauty products. There are lots of cruelty-free cosmetic products available on the market, which makes things easy for the us. The same goes for household cleaning products and toothpaste - there are a lot of cruelty-free varieties available. If you have access to these products, definitely choose them over animal-tested options. If you're not lucky enough to have access, don't feel guilty, just keep doing the best you can.

In terms of medicine, I don't think you should have your vegan club membership revoked for using medication that keeps you alive and healthy, regardless of whether or not it's tested. Your life is important. Trust me, you can do a lot more for the animals when you're alive and healthy than when you're sick or dead! So keep taking that medication, and don't feel guilty. In the meantime, let's hope for better alternatives, spread awareness, and help fund scientific research to abolish animal testing for good.