No new licences will be issued for animal testing of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetics ingredients, the Government has said.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced the ban on Wednesday, after it recently emerged the UK has been granting licences for animal testing since 2019 in certain circumstances in line with EU chemicals regulations, despite leaving the bloc.
Animal rights campaigners have been calling for an end to the practice as they accused the Government of weakening a 25-year ban.
From today no new licences will be granted for animal testing of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products.
In a written statement to Parliament, Ms Braverman said the UK ban on animal testing for consumer safety of cosmetics ingredients, in place since 1998, remains in force.
But she conceded that “a small number of time-limited licences” were issued between 2019 and 2022 in line with separate European chemicals rules.
The EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulations allow as a last resort the testing of some chemicals used in cosmetics production on animals when there is no other way to assess risks to workers in the manufacturing process and the environment.
“I can inform the House that the Government is taking action to seek alternatives to animal testing for worker and environmental safety of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients. We are therefore announcing a licensing ban with immediate effect,” Ms Braverman wrote.
“The Government recognises the public concern around the testing on animals of chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics, and the new opportunities available to us to depart from the EU testing regime.
“I can confirm, therefore, that from today no new licences will be granted for animal testing of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products.
“The Government is also engaging with the relevant companies to urgently determine a way forward on these legacy licences.
🙌 We are super pleased to hear that the UK Government has reconsidered its policy and announced an immediate licensing ban on the use of animals for testing chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients!💄
— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) May 17, 2023
“In addition, the Government is undertaking work to review at pace the effective administration of the ban over the longer term (including the legal framework for this). This would also have due regard of the needs of the science industry, the need to ensure worker and environmental safety, and the need to protect animals from unnecessary harm.”
Animal welfare and cosmetics groups welcomed Ms Braverman’s statement.
The RSPCA charity tweeted: “We are super pleased to hear that the UK Government has reconsidered its policy and announced an immediate licensing ban on the use of animals for testing chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients!”
Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, said: “I was pleased to meet with the Home Secretary today along with colleagues from Unilever and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association.
“We were able to provide a united voice on the importance of applying robust scientific approaches, that avoid the use of animals, for protecting the safety of workers involved in the manufacture of cosmetics ingredients.
“These cutting-edge approaches have been used over the last decade to protect the safety of consumers and it is a regulatory contradiction that they are not used for the purposes of worker safety not least because exposure is tightly controlled in UK factories.”
The Home Office oversees animal experimentation regulation in Great Britain.