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UK government admits it secretly abandoned cosmetics animal testing ban in 2019

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We call for immediate reinstatement of 1998 ban

The UK government has admitted that it secretly abandoned the UK’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics in 2019 – but as part of the ruling in our Judicial Review of the policy, a High Court judge has told the Home Office that it can reinstate the ban.

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, had argued that she was bound by a law originating in the European Union to authorise such tests. However, the ruling by Mr Justice Linden now allows Ms Braverman to reinstate the policy.

In a letter sent to us in August 2021, the Home Office admitted that it now allows animal testing for cosmetics in the UK. Documents disclosed in the court proceedings in January then revealed for the first time that the Home Office secretly abandoned the ban in 2019.

The Home Office had told us in an earlier judicial review that the policy was still in place and gave no hint that it had abandoned it until legally forced to reply.

Mr Justice Linden was critical of the way the Home Office had conducted itself in the current Judicial Review, although he stopped short of saying that their actions were unlawful. He agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the EU legislation but said that that did not stop the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals.

The judge also said the Home Office had been ‘less than transparent’ in its communications with us, in delaying its reply for nine months and even then failing to disclose that the policy had been changed two and a half years earlier. It was three and a half years before it began to tell stakeholders and even then there was lack of clarity.

We are now seeking permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judge’s ruling that the Home Secretary’s abandonment of the cosmetics policy in secret, without telling Parliament or the public, was lawful. We will also appeal against the judge’s interpretation of the EU legislation.

The case also clarified that the Home Secretary still has to consider whether the usefulness of the product justifies the level of suffering experienced by the animals used in the tests before granting a licence, even when a safety regulator, such as the Health & Safety Executive, requires animal testing to assess the safety of that product. This is under the harm:benefit test in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA).

A poll carried out by YouGov in autumn 2021, reflecting numerous others, showed that 85% of people in the UK find it unacceptable to test cosmetics ingredients on animals.

Our Chief Executive, Michelle Thew, said: ‘It is outrageous that the Government has abandoned the ban on using animals in cosmetics testing, and did so in secret while giving the impression that the policy remained in place. Documents the Home Office was forced to disclose in the case show clearly that it was prioritising the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing. Now that the High Court has said it can do so, we call on the Government immediately to reinstate the policy ban.

“It has never been more important to fight for animals dying in the name of beauty in UK laboratories. Please join us once again in this fight to end the needless suffering of animals in cruel cosmetics tests in the UK.”

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