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The Beauty of an Empty Cage

The story of beauty is two-faced. We are clueless about what goes on behind the scenes of making our favourite shades of lipstick or “anti-ageing” creams and are unaware of how much more it costs to make them than what we see on the label.

Sitting in my living room one day watching TV, I counted five different cosmetic advertisements all with different ideas of what is attractive. But they all promised the same thing, that if I use the products they use, I will look just like them.

And thus we customers take countless trips to the mall, the air heavy with perfume, our skin heavier with make-up. We look at the names of ingredients on the back that we cannot pronounce and re-assure ourselves that the lighter our wallet becomes, the younger and healthier we will look.

My awareness about the cruelty behind some of my favorite cosmetic brands started with a picture posted by PETA of a blind bunny next to a lipstick bottle, and I wondered what the relationship could be. Here’s what I learned:

It all started in the 1940s when people reported injuries and rashes due to unsafe beauty products. From then the trend of using animals as test subjects began in full storm. Human consent is a value that all companies must abide by but animals are considered to have no will of their own.

They are kept in labs where testing can range from mild eye drops to oral force-feeding and dripping chemicals onto their shaved skin. These tests can last for weeks or months to determine health hazards and signs of birth defects or cancer. Worst of all, animals sometimes are forced to ingest “Lethal doses” of chemicals to determine the dose that caused death. These “ test subjects” as the researchers call them, go through considerable amounts of distress in the weeks they spend in the lab and no pain relief is given. This is because pain relievers can get in the way of the drug being tested. Finally, to thank them for their “service” the animals are put down.

To add insult to injury, we are all aware that the way animals react to certain chemicals is different from how humans react. Researchers use a process called ADME(absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination) for how a chemical will affect an animal. They choose animals with similar organ structures if they are concerned about the damage the ingredient will cause. But even with a close match, a small change in biology can have a huge difference on the ADME process.

Rats, mice, and rabbits who are primarily the test subjects, absorb chemicals in their skin a lot faster than humans do, so results are inapplicable.

Therefore, even after many tests, safety can still not be guaranteed and this lack of credibility is what makes animal testing in cosmetics even more unethical. Despite receiving a lot of protests they have chosen to sell it there knowing it will ensure animal testing. It’s a tick mark against any potential lawsuits against them for human injury. The lives of innocent animals are worth a pen stroke on a paper to them.

But there is a ray of hope for our furry friends. The global ban on animal testing is slowly taking centre stage. There are over 40 countries worldwide so far that have banned or restricted animal testing for cosmetic ingredients. In 2013 all European countries banned production and marketing of animal-tested cosmetic products.

Taking inspiration from them, India too can proudly say that it is the first South Asian country to go #Crueltyfree thanks to the efforts of India’s “Be cruelty-free” campaign and The Humane society international. The BIS(Bureau of Indian Standards) has made it necessary to use alternatives to animal testing.

This year, on July 1st, 2020 Australia too had issued a ban on tests for cosmetics.

Today, since we have now come to know that animal-testing for the sake of beauty is cruel, expensive and generally inapplicable to humans, scientists have come up with alternatives such as tests on human cells known as in-vitro methods, advanced computer modelling techniques called silico methods and safe studies with human volunteers.

They are growing cells in 3D structures, such as miniature human organs. An in-vitro test called Corrositex, a sort of synthetic skin is used in place of animal skin to test chemicals for skin corrosivity.

The only bars in this world should be the bars on a ladder to a more loving future, and something as simple as an empty cage can be breath-taking. Our face is a blank canvas and makeup is the art, a way to make you feel confident in your own skin, but let it not be at the cost of others.

Hold your pets close and promise them you’ll go #crueltyfree because to them you are always beautiful.

By: Puja Bhide

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