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Animal testing in the UK

High Court grants permission for animal testing Judicial Review against Home Office
Aerial view of cage with white labrotary rabbits

The High Court has granted permission to leading animal protection organisation, Cruelty Free International, to apply for a judicial review against the Home Office relating to animal testing.

In 1998, the UK was the first country to establish a ban on animal testing for cosmetics and their ingredients.

It did so by way of a policy ban, implemented in practice by not issuing Home Office project licences for such work under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (known as ASPA).

Does the UK test on animals?

After the UK left the EU, the Home Office confirmed in a letter to Cruelty Free International in 2021 that it now again allows animal testing for cosmetics in the UK.

Tests are required even where chemicals are used exclusively as cosmetics ingredients, effectively overturning the cosmetics testing ban.

‘This Judicial Review is vital to establish whether there is a ban on cosmetics testing on animals in the UK. The Home Office admitted in its letter of August 2021 to us that it now allows most if not all animal testing for cosmetic ingredients – including those used solely in cosmetics.

‘The government seems to be telling the public one thing – that cosmetics animal testing is banned in the UK – and doing something entirely different in practice.

‘We know from poll after poll, that the British people are firmly opposed to animals suffering for beauty. A poll carried out by YouGov last autumn revealed that 85% find it unacceptable to test cosmetics ingredients on animals.’

KERRY POSTLEWHITE
Director of government and regulatory affairs at Cruelty Free International

The Judicial Review

Permission to apply for Judicial Review has been granted by the High Court on two grounds.
Firstly, whether the law does ban cosmetics testing on animals, as Cruelty Free International maintains, such that no licences for this type of animal testing should be granted.

Secondly, ASPA requires assessment of whether the harm that would be caused to protected animals in terms of suffering, pain and distress is justified by the expected outcome, taking into account ethical considerations and the expected benefit to human beings, animals or the environment.

The government is now saying that, with safety testing (not just cosmetics), it has to grant a licence for animal testing if that is thought to be scientifically required, without paying any regard to how useful the product is or how much suffering is involved. Cruelty Free International argues that that is wrong.

The permission to proceed with the Judicial Review follows the news that more than 80 companies – including Unilever, Avon, Boots, Waitrose and the Co-op – joined Cruelty Free International in writing to the Home Office voicing concerns that ingredients in beauty products would have to be tested on animals in the UK.

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