Recently I've been contacted by a few companies who sell in China, but still claim to be cruelty-free. The China issue can be a confusing one so I'd like to do my best to explain it here.
Skirting around the issue
When I email companies about their cruelty-free status, I always ask if they sell their products in mainland China. Frustratingly, I often receive a reply like this:
"As of June 30, 2014, animal testing for ordinary cosmetics produced and sold inside China was no longer legally mandated."Note that this does not answer the question of whether the company sells in China, but also tries to make it seem as though animal testing in China is no longer required by law. This article from Humane Society International explains the change in the Chinese law in June 2014. Since this change, some products may not be required by law to be tested on animals but this is no guarantee that they won't be. The company can still choose to test on animals in China, because it's perfectly legal to do so.
Post-market animal testing
Chinese authorities are also likely to conduct post-market animal testing. This is where they take finished products off the shelves and test them on animals. As Humane Society International explain, this practise has probably increased since the change in the law. In regards to the likelihood of post-market testing, HSI also state:
"HSI believes that until this is no longer the case, no cosmetics company can sell its products in China and credibly purport to be cruelty-free."The Body Shop recently tried to work around this rule by selling their products in Chinese airports, but when customers found out that these could be subject to post-market animal testing the products were quickly removed from the Chinese market. Any product sold in China can be subject to post-market animal testing, without a company's consent or knowledge.
When animal testing isn't required
So when are cosmetics not subject to animal testing in China?
- Products that are made and sold in Hong Kong. Although part of China, Hong Kong has separate animal testing laws, so cruelty-free companies can sell there. This why I specifically ask companies if they sell products in mainland China.
- Products manufactured in China for foreign export only. If it's not being sold to the Chinese public, their government says it's ok. So there are cruelty-free companies who make their products in China, but don't sell them there.
- E-commerce. Products sold and posted directly to customers from e-commerce websites are not required to be tested on animals. So cruelty-free companies can sell to Chinese customers directly through their websites.
So can a cruelty-free company sell in China?
No. When a company chooses to sell their products in China, they are consenting to test those products on animals, to use a third party to test on animals, or have the Chinese government test on animals for them. Currently, there is no way for a cruelty-free company to sell in China. Do not let any company try and convince you otherwise!
Lush, for example, refuse to sell products in mainland China until the law is changed in order to eliminate any chance of their products being tested on animals. Hilary Jones, Lush ethics director, states:
"LUSH and other cruelty-free companies are still unable to trade in China currently, as this legislation does not allow for fully non-animal tested cosmetics to come to market."The change in the law in June 2014 is an important first step, but it will be a long way until China is free from animal testing.
To learn more about this topic, I also recommend reading Logical Harmony's post about Animal Testing and China and Elephant In The Room's excellent infographic for Understanding China's Animal Testing Laws. My Beauty Bunny has a list of brands selling in China, so you know which ones to avoid.
This China & Cosmetics Animal Testing FAQ from Humane Society International gives a really comprehensive breakdown of the specifics. Also check out Cruelty Free International who along with Humane Society International are campaigning to end animal testing both in China and worldwide.
How do you feel about brands that sell in China? Is it ok if a company doesn't conduct animal testing themselves?