Cosmetics firms 'abandon cruelty-free policies' to stake claim in China market

Cosmetics firms accused of reversing stance on testing in race to secure stake in mainland market

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2012, 7:43am

Leading cosmetics brands are alleged to have quietly abandoned their cruelty-free policies to get a slice of the massive mainland market.

Animal welfare groups have now removed big names such as Estee Lauder, Mary Kay and Avon, as well as L'Occitane, from their list of cruelty-free brands and plan to call for customer boycotts.

Though the mainland is gradually adopting alternative methods, beauty products are still required to be tested on animals before they can be registered by the authorities.

A Hong Kong spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: "We used to accredit Estee Lauder, Mary Kay and Avon as cruelty-free until about two weeks ago, when we updated their status, [and] they admitted to us they allowed animal testing."

Together with L'Occitane, the brands have now lost their accreditation with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and Peta.

Local concern group Animal-Friendly Alliance's chairman, Kevin Cheuk Chi-chiu, said it would contact political parties after the Legco election and demand mandatory labelling of beauty products sold in Hong Kong to declare whether they are completely cruelty-free.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, of the Green Sense group, said it would contact the firms to confirm their policy. "If we find they do allow animal testing, we plan to stage protests outside their outlets and even call for a city-wide boycott of their products," he said.

A Mary Kay spokeswoman said it did not allow animal testing "except when absolutely required by law". She said: "There is only one country where we operate where that is the case … China." Estee Lauder and Avon did not respond to queries.

Dr Nick Palmer, director of policy at the BUAV, said from London that beauty companies seeking to register their products on the mainland had to supply samples to the State Food and Drug Administration for testing that included use of animals. He said he was disappointed they did not wait until the mainland adopted alternative methods.

L'Occitane said it was among the first companies to be admitted to the BUAV list in 1997 but was removed last December because Chinese authorities may carry out limited tests when registering products for the local market.

L'Oreal stopped animal testing in 1989, but the mainland authorities required tests on animals and it "will always abide by local regulations".