The time has come for Canada to join other members of the international community and put itself on the map as an ethical leader in the cosmetic industry, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen said late Thursday.
She was speaking to Bill S-214, the Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act, which is currently at third reading in the Senate.
First introduced in December of 2015, the bill would prohibit cosmetics testing on animals in Canada. It would also amend the Food and Drugs Act to ban the sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured through the use of animal testing.
The legislation would establish that no evidence derived from animal testing may be used to establish the safety of a cosmetic developed in Canada or elsewhere.
In October, members of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology voted unanimously in favour of S-214, sending it back to the Senate.
Although some senators have concerns about its implications, Stewart Olsen told the Red Chamber that if the bill passes, cosmetics currently being sold will remain on the shelf. The legislation does prohibit newly manufactured or the development of animal tested cosmetics. Should it receive royal assent, there would be a four-year phase in period to allow the industry to adjust.
“This approach was developed to mirror that of the European Union, which introduced a testing ban in 2009 and four years later a sales and marketing ban,” she said.
Her intent isn’t to unfairly penalize Canadian cosmetic companies. However, Stewart Olsen said it’s urgent and timely to have this debate, as what she’s proposing responds to Canadians “who have implored their representatives to end a practice they find disturbing.”
She noted polls have shown more than 81 per cent of Canadians support a national sales ban on cosmetics and cosmetics ingredients which have been tested on animals. More than 100,000 Canadians have signed the a cruelty free petition. Since the bill was introduced, senators have received thousands of emails and letters in support of it.
“Animal testing is cruel and unreliable,” she told senators. “We have moved as a society beyond just accepting, a priori, that animals need to be tortured to establish safety.”
That’s evidenced in the fact that when trying to create balance on both sides of the issue at committee, it was a struggle to get companies that do test on animals to appear.
“No company which conducts animal testing for cosmetics purposes or allows it to be conducted offshore, will defend this practice on the record,” Stewart Olsen said.
Senators heard from an industry representative instead.
As the global cosmetics industry moves in a cruelty free direction, she noted that some of North America’s best known brands have become extremely wealthy without any need for animal testing. LUSH and the Body Shop are just two examples. Both strongly support the bill.
While proponents of testing paint it as a necessary evil to establish product safety, that misrepresents the reality of advances in alternative testing that don’t involve animals, she said.
“Simply put, it is no longer necessary to appeal to the cruelty of animal testing to disprove its usefulness or effectiveness.”
In fact, in a presentations to parliamentarians, representatives from the newly opened Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor said the research and development path from animal studies to human trials has a 95 per cent failure rate.
Stewart Olsen noted in her speech that Thomas Hartung, director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University has said that “mice predict the effect on humans with about 43 per cent efficiency, so sometimes it would seem that tossing a coin would give a better result.”
That’s not good enough for her.
She’s framed the bill as a business and science model for Canada to follow, not a piece of animal rights activism. Having implemented the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, Stewart Olsen said Canada has a strong incentive to align its practices.
After the EU banned animal cosmetic testing within its borders in 2009, it went further in 2013 and established a complete ban on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing — regardless of where in the world the testing took place. Similar bill are under discussion in the United States, Australia, Brazil and Latin America, similar bills are under discussion.
Stewart Olsen told senators the federal government has stressed Canada’s progressive trade agenda in meetings with trade partners.
“The bill before us would help the government make the case this effort is not only sincere, but workable. S-214 represents a real chance for Canada to be a moral leader in the world’s cosmetics industry,” she said.
“I urge you to support this bill and help this discussion get into the House of Commons where it belong.”
The Senate has adjourned debate of the bill ahead of its two week break, which starts Monday.