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Australian NGOs celebrate ‘huge win’ on animal testing ban

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Two NGOs have called the Australian parliament’s recent passing of a ban on animal testing on cosmetics a "huge win" for their Be Cruelty-Free Australia campaign.

And the Humane Society International (HSI) and Humane Research Australia (HRA) have also expressed support for the government’s commitment to reducing the reliance on animal testing for all industrial chemicals, while encouraging the use of alternatives.

On 14 February the country’s parliament passed the part of the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017 that included a ban on animal testing for chemical introductions with an end use solely in cosmetics.

Just three days earlier, government minister Bridget McKenzie wrote to the HSI making 11 commitments.

In her 11 February letter Ms McKenzie said the government would be incorporating measures into the ministerial rules to limit the use of animal test data in multi end-use cosmetics. These contain substances that can be used in cosmetics but also in other products, and may have been tested on animals for other purposes.

The letter also commits the government to:

  • implementing strategies to encourage the cosmetics industry not to use animal test data;
  • requiring a declaration of compliance with the animal test data ban from industry, as part of pre-introduction reporting or post-market annual declarations "as appropriate to the category of industrial chemical introduction";
  • requiring the executive director of the new chemicals scheme, Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS), to publish statistics every year on the use of animal test data; and
  • an agreement in principle to explore the ability to use a portion of the funding under the current 2017-18 budget measure to support the development and uptake of new approach methods to replace animal testing.

Senator McKenzie says in her letter that the commitments come as part of the "general international trend away from reliance on the use of animals to determine the hazards and risks associated with the use of industrial chemicals."

Three of the six parts of the Industrial Chemicals bill passed the Australian parliament on 18 February. The final three parts – which relate to costs and charges – are expected to be heard in April. Once cleared it is expected to take effect on 1 July 2020.

NGO pressure

Under its joint Be Cruelty-Free Australia campaign, HSI and HRA have spent several years negotiating with the government for a change of language in the bill.

They argued that the terms "solely for cosmetics" but not for "multi end-use substances" would lead to companies declaring any new cosmetic ingredient as multi-use and relying on new animal testing data as a cheaper option.

HSI said this might have meant that 79% of cosmetic end-use chemical assessments would not fall within the scope of the ban.

Campaign manager, Hannah Stuart, told Chemical Watch that "the government commitments to HSI not only address our concerns with the ban but actually provide more in terms of animal protection outcomes through further reduced reliance on animal testing."

She added that the ban and related additional commitments will apply to all relevant cosmetic chemical introduction categories, rather than only some – including cosmetic end uses of ‘multi-use’ introductions.

After the new rules are finalised, there will be a short period, normally 15 days, where either the House of Representatives or the Senate can vote to veto the rules under a dis-allowance procedure. Otherwise, the rules are enacted. Amendments can only be made if the rules are disallowed.

Australia has been moving towards banning the use of animal test data in cosmetics for a number of years. The Department of Health announced in 2016 that it would do this the following year. However, implementation of the ban was delayed, because it is a part of the Industrial Chemicals Bill.

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