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EU agrees to animal testing ban

The European Union agreed late last week to ban the use of animals for testing key cosmetic products, overcoming fierce French resistance in a marathon twelve-hour session that ended years of wrangling.

The compromise between Euro-MPs and EU governments was hailed as a victory for animal rights, though it still allows firms to feed toxins to mice, rabbits, and primates under certain conditions for another 10 years if no other methods of testing exist.

The law will stop animal testing of everything from perfume to lipstick to shampoo under staggered deadlines by 2009. It also prevents the marketing of products tested on animals outside the EU, stopping firms from evading the rules by using laboratories outside the EU.

Many tests can be done using chemicals, but cosmetics companies are often unsure of the risk of cancer-causing carcinogens or allergic side-effects until products have been tested on animals.

Halt abuse

Chris Davies, MEP, the Liberal Democrats' consumer affairs spokesman, said the deal would go a long way to halting the abuse of animals for non-medical research.

She said: "It is a matter of moral conviction that we should not make other creatures suffer for the sake of flattering human vanity. Our bathroom shelves are already full of deodorants and hair spray, so why do we need more that are tested on animals?"

British officials said it was not clear whether the deal was compatible with the EU's obligations under the World Trade Organisation, which monitors whether states are using ethical or safety arguments as a smokescreen for protectionism.

The European Parliament has been crusading for a ban for the last decade but has been thwarted by the European Commission and France, where many top cosmetics firms are based.

Observers present at the meeting said France held up the deal until the early hours of Thursday, 7th November, insisting that testing was "essential for public safety".