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High Court Judge rules that Home Office can reinstate policy ban on animal testing for cosmetics

Cruelty Free International

3 min read Partner content

Animal protection NGO Cruelty Free International is calling on the government to reinstate the 1998 ban on animal testing for cosmetics, which a High Court judge has now ruled it is able to do. Documents disclosed in the court proceedings revealed for the first time that the Home Office secretly abandoned the ban in 2019.

The ruling, made by Mr Justice Linden in the Judicial Review of the Home Office’s policy on animal testing in the UK brought by Cruelty Free International (number CO/3748/21), now allows Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, to reinstate the policy.

In a letter sent to Cruelty Free International in August 2021, the Home Office admitted that it now allows animal testing for cosmetics in the UK. Ms Braverman argued in court that she was bound by a law originating in the EU[1] to authorise such testing.

The Home Office had told Cruelty Free International in an earlier judicial review that the policy was still in place and gave no hint that it had abandoned it until forced to reply to a legal letter.

In the present Judicial Review, Mr Justice Linden was critical of the way the Home Office had conducted itself[2], although he stopped short of saying it was unlawful[3]. He agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the legislation but said that that did not stop the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals.

Cruelty Free International is now seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judge’s ruling that the Home Secretary’s abandonment of the cosmetics policy in secret, without telling Parliament or the public, was lawful. It will also appeal against the judge’s interpretation of the EU legislation.

Cosmetics tests often cause a high degree of suffering to large numbers of animals. For example, a prenatal developmental toxicity study can involve a hundred rats or rabbits being force fed a substance through a tube down their throats, every day for the duration of their pregnancy. Just before they give birth they and their pups are killed and dissected to look for abnormalities. In other cosmetic ingredient tests, animals may be forced to ingest or inhale substances, or have them applied to their skin. The animals are then subjected to further monitoring and testing before almost always being killed, so that researchers can look at the effects on their tissues and organs.

A poll carried out by YouGov in autumn 2021, reflecting numerous others, showed that 85% of people in the UK find it unacceptable to test cosmetics ingredients on animals.

The case also clarified that the Home Secretary still has to consider whether the usefulness of the product justifies the level of suffering experienced by the animals used in the tests before granting a licence, even when a safety regulator, such as the Health & Safety Executive, requires animal testing to assess the safety of that product. This is under the harm:benefit test in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA).

Cruelty Free International Chief Executive, Michelle Thew, said: ‘It is outrageous that the Government has abandoned the ban on using animals in cosmetics testing, and did so in secret while giving the impression that the policy remained in place. Documents the Home Office was forced to disclose in the case show clearly that it was prioritising the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing. Now that the High Court has said it can do so, we call on the Government immediately to reinstate the policy ban.”

Associated Organisation