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A recent High Court ruling dismissed a legal challenge by Cruelty Free International (CFI), an animal welfare organization, that accused the UK government of secretly abandoning a historic ban on animal testing for cosmetic products.
CFI alleged that the Home Office changed its policy after February 2019, allowing animal testing of cosmetic ingredients, and claimed that this weakened the ban, first announced in 1998, and was unlawful. The Home Office countered, saying it had not acted unlawfully.
Mr Justice Linden ruled in favor of the government, stating that the Home Office and the public had no “legitimate expectation” to be informed about a change in policy position. The judge acknowledged that the lack of public announcement of the change was “regrettable” and that “inaccurate” operational guidance was available online.
The legal dispute mainly revolved around the Home Office’s understanding of EU legislation concerning cosmetics and their safety. Mr Justice Linden clarified that cosmetic regulations aim to protect consumer safety and ban animal testing for cosmetics and their ingredients. Additionally, the marketing of products or ingredients tested on animals is prohibited.
However, separate regulations for evaluating chemicals, including those used in cosmetics, are more permissive, focusing on broader human and environmental safety. These regulations allow animal testing only as a “last resort” to meet requirements such as assessing risks to manufacturing workers.
The Home Office’s policy is that animal testing is lawful in the UK and not in conflict with bans in “limited circumstances” when there are “no other alternative ways” to meet the requirements of the chemical-related regulations.
The judge concluded that the government modified its policy for “pragmatic reasons” rather than legal requirements. Although the change was “not fully documented or widely communicated,” there was no breach of public law duty to notify CFI or the public.
CFI chief executive Michelle Thew expressed disappointment in the ruling and claimed that the Home Office prioritized contract-testing companies’ interests over animal welfare and public opinion. CFI plans to appeal the judgment.
A Home Office spokesperson reiterated that testing cosmetic products or their ingredients on animals remains unlawful, as is the marketing of cosmetic products or ingredients tested on animals.
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