South Korea has seen the introduction of a bill that would ban animal testing of cosmetics and their ingredients by 2017. The bill was submitted on 11 March by 23 National Assembly members, says the Korea Testing & Research Institute (KTR).
Animal welfare group Cruelty Free International (CFI) has been working with South Korea and other Asian countries to drive the replacement of animal tests. Its representative, Nick Palmer, who is also director of policy at the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) says: “The phased ban resembles the staged introduction of the full ban in Europe, and we see it as a very significant breakthrough, following the earlier advance in China last July, when registration with non-animal tests became possible for products with elements of domestic manufacture.” He says CFI would like to see instant, total bans everywhere, but that realistically a phased approach is what most countries are moving towards. “We see the two-year timetable as a reasonable concession to industry to allow them to adjust,” he adds.
As well as ending the testing of finished cosmetic products on animals, the bill also includes most cosmetics ingredients. He notes that there is an exemption for ingredients tested for other purposes, such as the Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (K-REACH), and for tests where the government considers there is particular risk and no non-animal alternative has yet been validated.
Animal rights group Humane Society International (HSI) says that while “a milestone”, the bill does not propose a complete testing ban because of numerous “loopholes”. For example, it says, substances tested for K-REACH. In addition, it says:
the current bill exempts several product categories and types of ingredients, including preservatives, colourants and sunscreen chemicals;
it bans animal testing only where there are Korean government-accepted alternatives; and
it allows cosmetics, which have been tested on animals in order to meet mandatory requirements in other countries, to be sold in South Korea.
As such, the HSI says, the bill is roughly equivalent to EU policy in 2004, before a total ban on cosmetics animal testing was introduced in 2013. The HSI says it will push for a more robust ban in South Korea.
Claire Mansfield, director of the BeCrueltyFree campaign organised by the HSI and other NGOs, told Chemical Watch the bill “would be more accurately described as a mandatory alternatives for cosmetics bill, as it only bans cosmetic animal testing where there are accepted alternatives. Whereas true cosmetic animal testing bans, like those in the EU, Israel and India, ban animal testing regardless of the existence of alternatives. So, for the Korea bill, where there is no government-approved non-animal test available, animal tests will still be permitted.”