Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Post from Savannah Scorpion: Unpopular Opinions about Animal Testing

It's time for anther guest post from yours truly Savannah Scorpion, America's Favorite Retail Drone (TM). This time, I'm writing about animal testing, and why I'm somewhat critical of brands that brag about being "cruelty free". This is a very sensitive issue, I will be discussing animal cruelty, which can be triggering for readers. If you get upset or overwhelmed by this post, please stop reading and take care of yourself, and look at cute pictures of animals, such as my cat.
[Ed. Note: Oh my god, so fucking cute.]
I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and I had a draft of this post sitting around, and then Tarte Cosmetics announced on its Facebook page that the company has been purchased by Kose, a Japanese cosmetics company. And the "tartelettes" are pissed.
I'm not denying that animal testing is shitty and abusive, but I'm getting very tired of people only caring about animal welfare when it comes to cosmetics and spreading misinformation about animal testing.
Before I keep on blathering, read Natalie Dee's post "Oh no! Who put "Sad" and "Guilt" in My Lotion"? If you've already read it, read it again because it is good shit.
Okay, moving on. Let's start with what the US Food and Drug Administration says about animal testing:
"Animals are sometimes used in the testing of drugs, vaccines and other biologics, and medical devices, mainly to determine the safety of the medical product....For drugs and biologics, the focus of animal testing is on the drug’s nature, chemistry, and effects (pharmacology) and on its potential damage to the body (toxicology)....There are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and non-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option. However, FDA has supported efforts to reduce animal testing. In addition, FDA has research and development efforts underway to reduce the need for animal testing and to work toward replacement of animal testing."
"The FD&C Act does not specifically require the use of animals in testing cosmetics for safety, nor does the Act subject cosmetics to FDA premarket approval. However, the agency has consistently advised cosmetic manufacturers to employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective for substantiating the safety of their products. It remains the responsibility of the manufacturer to substantiate the safety of both ingredients and finished cosmetic products prior to marketing."
The FDA is a government agency, and I am very much a member of the Dale Gribble Society of Not Trusting The Government About Goddamn Anything. Could the FDA's claims about creating alternatives to animal testing be total bullshit? Of course. Do I think that it's really fucking shady that the FDA is basically asking cosmetic companies to self-regulate? Shit yes. Is this the worst thing the government has done when it comes to treating animals poorly?
I doubt that any of the "tartelettes" were speaking out about the new Farm Bill, which provides huge subsidies to CAFOS (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), and cut funding for food stamps. I've never heard someone who brags about buying "cruelty free" makeup also talking about the high rates of PTSD diagnoses among slaughterhouse workers. I've never seen a "tartelette" denounce the abysmal working conditions of women working on banana fincas on the Chiquita Facebook page. Sometimes I feel like people only care about animal abuse when the animals are cute puppies and kittens in shelters, or bunnies in a cosmetic testing lab. This is why I absolutely love Banksy's "Sirens of the Lambs" piece hat was part of his visit to New York City:
Maybe cows and pigs and lambs aren't cute enough for people complaining on Facebook pages.
The current "cruelty-free" trend is not intersectional, and follows the neoliberal fallacy that the market decides everything, and people can change the market simply through buying different things.
In reality, economics really doesn't work that way. There are very few true "indie" brands, and large companies like L'Oreal and Estee Lauder control most of the cosmetics market and own many brands. This isn't the first time that a company that doesn't test on animals has been bought by a larger company that tests on animals. The cosmetics industry is supergoddamnfucking competitive, and it's hard to make money as an independent brand. Tarte will have additional backing and financial support and will be able to expand into other markets. Urban Decay, another "cruelty free" brand, owned by The L'Oreal Group, can release new products that may not sell as well (like really, really, really, really really bright eye shadow palletes) and has an easier time advertising. In turn, these companies can hire more people.
Not to mention that "cruelty-free" products are a. usually expensive, and b. have a limited color range, and aren't suitable for people with a skintone darker than "beige".

So, what's an animal loving beauty junkie to do?
Be Intersectional. If your concern over animal welfare isn't intersectional, it is bullshit. Demand that "cruelty-free" lines create products for all skin types and skin tones. Call out campaigns that rely on racism and sexism to promote their message [LOOKING AT YOU, PETA]. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary. Consider consuming less animal products, and offer to cook and share recipes for those that many not have the time, energy, or funds to eat vegan food on a regular basis. Personally, I am in a position where I can't eat a strictly vegan diet due to physical/mental health/financial concerns, but I no longer drink animal milk, and I am working on transitioning to a diet less reliant on consuming animals and animal products.
If you are concerned about the treatment of animals in the beauty industry, you also need to give a shit about the humans involved in the production and sale of cosmetics, too. Factory workers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals, the beauty industry uses a dickton of energy (and fossil fuels) in the production, shipping, and sale of cosmetics, and workers on the sale end of the business are paid shit, and the retail/service industry is not usually represented by unions.
Be A Judgmental Jerk. I'm never going to be a dick about people who use products tested on animals, because frequently those brands are also the ones that are more affordable, have a wider shade range for foundations and concealers, or treat more serious medical conditions.
Harass Salespeople or Stylists. If you want to know if a product is tested on animals, simply ask. However, remember that the person at the MAC counter, or you stylist at your salon isn't the one who gets to control a company's testing policy [or even what product their salon carries]. Do not behave like the jerk customer I had to deal with when I worked at Panera who asked a million questions about where and how the grain for bread was grown, how much greenhouse gasses the company produced, and the company's annual donations to charities all while I was trying to clean up tables during a busy lunch rush.
In addition, if you are organizing any type of demonstration against a specific brand or retailer *DO NOT HARASS WORKERS AND DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT WILL MAKE A LOW-LEVEL RETAIL EMPLOYEE CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR GODDAMN MESS*

[Ed. Note: I would just like to describe a scene I witnessed recently that illustrates the WRONG way to do this: An organized group of assholes in Walgreen's had bought a bunch of products that they considered "toxic", put them in specially labeled bags, and then all 20 of them made the store refund them one at a time. Way to stick it to the minimum wage cashiers! They were all grinning smugly the entire time, despite the manager or assistant manager's telling them that she really had no control over that the store sold. I was glad at least to see that she wouldn't allow them to take photos of their oh-so-clever campaign.] 

1 comment:

  1. What a fucking solid post. I wish everybody would read this. I'm sure animal testing is shitty in many ways, and for many reasons, but with thousands in student loan debt it's not something I can really take into consideration when buying cosmetics. It's also possible to be vegan and not be aware of intersectionality - I've met a lot of people like that, unfortunately.


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