Washington bans sale of cosmetics newly tested on animals

A photo shows a close up of a golden rabbit's face and he stands on grey wood.
Rabbits have long been the animal of choice for several tests to see if cosmetic products are safe, but a new law is banning new animal testing of cosmetic products in Washington. (Credit: Pixabay)



A recent Washington law won’t allow new animal-tested products to be sold in the state. 

Many products such as makeup and lotions are already on shelves, and those are grandfathered in.

“We’re just trying to make sure there are no new animal tests being conducted to assess the safety of cosmetics and their ingredients,” said Vicki Katrinak, the director of Animal Research and Testing at the Humane Society of the United States, who said she helped push for the legislation.

Technology has developed to a point where there are now alternatives to tests like putting chemicals into the eye of a rabbit. Human skin and eye cells can be used to test chemicals instead, Katrinak said. 

“There are non-animal test methods available that provide data that’s more relevant to human beings,” Katrinak said. 

Rabbits don’t produce tears the same way humans do, which is one of the reasons they are often selected for cosmetics testing, Katrinak said. 

“That also makes it more cruel, because it keeps the chemical in the eye longer,” Katrinak said. “If anyone has gotten shampoo in their eye before, your eye immediately starts to water because it’s trying to flush out the irritant, but the rabbit’s eyes don’t do that the way humans’ eyes do.”

The other common cosmetics test on rabbits is to shave the side of the rabbit and apply chemicals to the skin to watch for signs of irritation, Katrinak said. 

This is why the Leaping Bunny is the international symbol for companies that have not used animal testing on their products, Katrinak said. 

Representative Amy Walen, a Democrat who introduced the legislation, said in a statement that animal cruelty should be minimized or eliminated. 

“This isn’t medical testing. Our understanding of animal suffering and the science behind cosmetics has advanced enough that we should know better than to maintain this horrible practice,” Walen said. “I am glad to see this signed into law by the governor.” 

Washington is the 12th state to pass a law banning cosmetic testing on animals. Oregon passed a similar law last year.

Katrinak said she has been working to pass the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would ban animal testing for cosmetics nationwide.

The federal bill is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, which Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, a Republican Washington representative, chairs.