Lifestyle: Cosmetics testing — will Japan go cruelty free?

(From EURObiz Japan)

By Justin McCurry

Walk into any pharmacy in Tokyo, marvel at the array of products lining the shelves, and it comes as little surprise to learn that Japan is the second-biggest cosmetics market in the world.

The success European companies have had penetrating the Japanese market now means that household domestic names such as Kao and Shiseido compete with familiar foreign brands such as Lush and LVMH.

For the past two years, European companies aiming to seize a bigger share of a market valued at ¥2.33 trillion in 2014 have been able to add a key ethical element to their marketing campaigns, and one that is beginning to resonate with Japanese consumers.

Anti-animal testing poster

Anti-animal testing poster

After two decades of pressure, cosmetics companies in European Union member states went completely “cruelty-free” in March 2013, bringing to an end an incremental process that began several years earlier.

According to the two-part ban, no cosmetic can be tested on animals in the EU, while the sale of imported products that have been tested on animals — or, crucially, which contain individual ingredients that have been tested in that way — are also banned.

Ensuring that Japanese products are held to the same ethical standards has sparked an energetic industry campaign targeting firms that continue to make cosmetics and quasi-drugs (substances that provide mild treatment and contain active ingredients) that involve testing on animals — and consumers who use such products.

Although Japanese law does not require most ordinary cosmetics to undergo animal testing, neither are there regulations that prohibit such trials. Instead, companies are granted carte blanche to carry out safety analysis of ingredients and finished products in any way they see fit.

Having reportedly won an agreement from Japanese officials who signalled they were ready to abolish the current notification system — a much-derided piece of red tape — for importers of cosmetics and quasi-drugs, European firms now hope a comprehensive agreement on animal testing will form part of a free trade agreement between the EU and Japan.

In its 2014 white paper, the EBC in Japan included a demand for validated alternatives to animal testing, noting that official recognition of data acquired through non-animal methods remained low among Japanese authorities. The EBC also called on Japan to honour its international commitment to animal welfare and the environment.

labelOfficial pressure has spawned a local grassroots Be Cruelty-Free campaign, led by the Humane Society International (HSI). In March this year, campaigners and firms took their message to the Diet, treating politicians to samples of cruelty-free products from Europe as well as Japan.

“For many Diet members, this was the first time trying out cruelty-free cosmetics and talking with cruelty-free companies about the ethical and safety advantages of making beauty products without animal testing,” said Be Cruelty-Free spokeswoman Sakiko Yamazaki, in a statement. Read more


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