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Prohibitions on cosmetics testing in the EU and elsewhere

Prohibitions on cosmetics animal testing and the Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny criteria

In order to become Leaping Bunny approved, brands must meet rigorous criteria that go beyond compliance with animal testing restrictions:

  • They must apply a fixed cut-off date, an immovable date after which neither the brand nor any of its suppliers and manufacturers may conduct, commission or be party to animal tests for raw materials or ingredients anywhere in the world.* This applies for their entire supply chain down to ingredient manufacturer.
  • They cannot have had any final product testing anywhere in the world after their fixed cut-off date.
  • They must set up a continuous monitoring system to ensure all their suppliers and manufacturers comply with Leaping Bunny criteria and all products, raw materials and ingredients are checked for any new animal testing at least every 12 months.
  • They must open up their monitoring system to regular independent audits (outside of Cruelty Free International) to check they continue to comply with their fixed cut-off date for all their cosmetics, including any new ones.
  • All Leaping Bunny brands must meet these criteria for their entire own brand (cosmetics) and for every country they sell in.

* unless in the exceptional case that a regulatory agency demands a test for an ingredient already established on the market for cosmetics or household products use where that test is required, and when that test is not for cosmetic or household product purposes, and over which a brand has absolutely no control. Subject to a formal assessment for every incidence of animal testing to ensure no breach of Leaping Bunny criteria.

The Leaping Bunny programme has been approving cruelty free brands for over two decades and it continues to be the best assurance for consumers choosing to buy cruelty free.

Cruelty Free International and our European partners were instrumental in achieving the ground-breaking European prohibitions on animal testing for cosmetic and toiletry (‘cosmetic’) products and ingredients. However, there are limitations to the prohibitions and important differences between the EU prohibitions and Leaping Bunny - see below.

From 11 March 2009, the EU prohibited the testing, within the EU, of cosmetic ingredients – irrespective of whether there were non-animal alternatives. It had already prohibited the testing in the EU of cosmetic products. The prohibitions are known as ‘the testing bans’.

From 11 March 2013, the EU completed the prohibition on the sale of cosmetics animal-tested after that date anywhere in the world. The prohibition applies to both cosmetic products and ingredients, again irrespective of whether there are alternatives. It is known as the ‘marketing ban’.

The limitations to the EU prohibitions

  • Under EU law, they can only apply where there is a connection with the EU i.e. testing within the EU or sale within the EU where the testing took place elsewhere.
  • The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Commission interpret the prohibitions as applying only to cosmetics testing.
  • They argue that EU REACH rules mean that the prohibitions do not apply to testing to determine if there is a risk to the environment (so called ‘ecotox testing’), or to worker safety tests.
  • Following a 2020 European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Board of Appeal ruling, it was decided that even for sole use cosmetics ingredients, animal testing may be required for EU REACH.

Cruelty Free International does not agree with the narrow interpretation put by the Commission and we are seeking to challenge it. However, that is how the prohibitions are being operated at present.

How does the Leaping Bunny brand go beyond the basic EU regulation & what is permitted in China?

Cosmetics companies which are not Leaping Bunny approved can still test their products or ingredients on animals – as long as they don’t do these tests or sell these products in the European Union.

For example, before some cosmetics products can go on sale in China, they must be tested by the Chinese authorities, which normally involves a range of animal tests.

Companies approved by the Leaping Bunny have not been permitted to sell in China unless direct to consumer until recently. These companies made a big commitment to ethics over profits as China is a fast-growing market which they couldn’t access, unlike companies which weren’t approved by the Leaping Bunny. Now, following a successful pilot programme, Leaping Bunny can also permit domestic manufacture of non-special use cosmetics in China for sale to Chinese consumers, provided Leaping Bunny brands follow specific criteria.

In addition, the Leaping Bunny does not only apply to ingredients solely used in cosmetics, or to consumer safety testing – it applies to any kind of testing, including worker safety and for the environment. We don’t think consumers care what type of label is put on a test, or whether an ingredient happens to have another minor use. 

The EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics has been a hugely important step forward, if properly interpreted.  But until we achieve a meaningful, global ban on animal testing, the Leaping Bunny continues to be the only guarantee that animals are not still being used to test the cosmetic ingredients in a company’s products. The Leaping Bunny has a really important influence in achieving a global ban.