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Animal rights outrage

France and a group of cosmetics ingredients manufacturers have launched legal action to try and overturn the seventh amendment to the EU Cosmetics Directive containing a combined 'animal testing & sales' ban for cosmetics & toiletries. France, which is the largest cosmetics animal tester in Europe and home to companies like L'Oreal, has put forward a number of objections.

Firstly it argues that the law breaches World Trade Organisation agreements. This is not true. The European Court of Justice has always said that it will not second-guess what the WTO dispute panels would decide if a challenge like this were brought to them.

The EU and member states must have the right to reflect the ethical concerns of their people by banning products produced using cruel means (cruelty to people or animals). In an opinion poll in February 2003 60% of French citizens favoured a total ban on cosmetics animal testing. Public concern about animal welfare is one of the GATT Article XX exceptions to free trade, and was one of the principal arguments used by the USA when it banned the import and sale of dog and cat fur in December 2000, therefore an important precedent has already been set.

Secondly France argues that the ban breaches the principle of freedom to pursue a professional activity because it constitutes 'excessive and intolerable interference'. This is absurd! It does not stop companies from trading or making new products, it simply stops them testing on animals to do so. In effect, France wants to assert a freedom to cause pain to defenceless animals for a trivial and vain benefit.

Wendy Higgins, BUAV Campaigns Director, says: "It has already taken animal campaigners like the BUAV and the European Parliament a frustrating thirteen year struggle to finally secure legislation to outlaw the suffering of lab animals to produce trivial products like lipstick and perfume. It is shameful enough that it has taken this long, impeded as we have been at every stage by aggressive industry lobbying. It is even more shameful and shocking though, that a challenge to actually reverse the EU cosmetics animal testing ban has been brought forward. This proves once and for all that the beauty business is more concerned with turning a profit than with turning their back on unethical and cruel practices."

The BUAV urges ethical consumers to redouble their efforts to boycott products from animal testing companies and instead only buying products approved under the Humane Cosmetics Standard, the only internationally recognised kitemark for products that are genuinely cruelty-free. Get your indispensable free pocket-size guide to non-animal tested products products, the Little Book of Cruelty Free, by calling 020-7700 4888 or e-mail