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Unequivocal public criticism of Herbal EssencesHerbal Essences mislead MPs over animal testing

It has come to our attention that Marina Barker, UK External Relations Director for Herbal Essences' manufacturers Procter & Gamble, has written to MPs in relation to our Early Day Motion 1279 which praises the boycott and is entitled ‘Animal Testing of Cosmetics’. In this letter, P&G try to give the false impression that they don't test on animals for the sake of cosmetics.

This note cuts through the corporate spin to explain what's really going on. Please use this note to explain the truth to your MP or to reply to MPs who are reluctant to sign EDM 1279.

We understand that some MPs have misinterpreted her letter to mean that P&G does not conduct animal tests for the sake of cosmetics products (a practice which has been banned in the UK since 1998). I suspect that this is how P&G intend the letter to be interpreted. However, as I shall explain, P&G continue to poison animals in toxicity tests for cosmetics products.

First of all, when Ms Barker claims that P&G do not test their beauty products on animals, this is misleading because:

(a) P&G’s own website (i) admits that they do test finished cosmetics products on animals - when required by law. It is important to understand that any such legal requirement would only arise because of P&G's decision to use new-to-the-world chemicals in their products in order to try to maximise profits. In any case, P&G refuse to implement a policy restricting their animal testing of finished products to only those that are legally required (ii.

(b) More importantly, P&G’s animal testing for shampoos like Herbal Essences normally involves the testing of the chemical ingredients rather than the finished product. In particular, we are asking people to boycott Herbal Essences because we have direct evidence (iii) of animal testing of a chemical found in most of the Herbal Essences range. This chemical - butylparaben - was tested and declared safe many years ago. However, P&G force-fed butylparaben to pregnant rats to see if it harmed their developing offspring in a test that killed 100 pregnant mothers and their 1,200 baby animals.

Ms Barker goes on to claim that P&G ‘utilise non-animal methods for evaluating cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients'.

Of course, what she omits to mention is that P&G also use animal test methods. So here, I think P&G are trying to give the impression that they only use non-animal test methods, without explicitly saying that. In other words P&G are trying to give a false impression without - technically - lying.

Ms Barker also claims that P&G ‘have been developing and applying alternative methods for well over a decade and were able to eliminate use of animals in the safety of our cosmetic products many years before it became legally binding'.

Once again this is a highly misleading statement. Firstly, the reference to the elimination of animal tests for products is inconsistent with P&G’s admissions elsewhere and, anyway, it is a red herring. But also, as a multi-national company, there is no law that stops P&G testing their cosmetics on animals. Such tests are illegal in the UK, but not in countries such as the US where P&G are based. P&G still conduct animal tests for the sake of products like Herbal Essences in the US (as the butylparaben test referenced above shows) and market the products here in the UK.

Ms Barker’s letter goes on to give the impression that P&G is committed to ending animal testing for cosmetics. However, yet again P&G’s claims do not stand up to scrutiny.

Sadly, far from animal testing being a last resort for P&G, the company conducts unnecessary tests and promotes animal testing by constantly inventing new chemical ingredients for their shampoos and other products. This is the main driver of P&G animal tests for cosmetics. P&G also conduct animal tests that are not required by law - the Herbal Essences case discussed above is just one example.

P&G have also been exposed as secretly lobbying (iv) the European Union in favour of animal testing of cosmetics. In reality, P&G’s overriding priority is profit maximisation and they are happy to sacrifice animals in pursuit of that goal.

Hundreds of companies, especially in the UK, produce shampoos etc. without animal testing. The bottom line is that P&G could stop animal testing for Herbal Essences and other cosmetics immediately if that was their genuinely desire.

Although P&G give various figures for their alleged investment in ‘alternatives’ to animal testing, their own scientific papers show that some of these proposed ‘alternatives’ are merely slightly less severe types of animal test, rather than truly humane, non-animal alternatives. Furthermore, P&G are spending large sums of money developing new animal tests to allow them to introduce novel types of substances such as nanoparticles into their cosmetics.

In fact, there are several reasons to be suspicious about P&G’s claims regarding spending on alternatives. Firstly, one of the reasons they say it is because they tested it on focus groups and found it was the most persuasive excuse they could give for their animal testing practices. Secondly, the figure they quote for alternatives spending changes from statement to statement, and they have produced no evidence to back up the claim.

Even if we accept P&G’s claim at face value, then this translates to less than 1% of their total spending on research. Even more startling, the amount spent by P&G on developing alternatives is approximately 1/1000, or 0.1%, of the amount that they spend on advertising. So P&G’s commitment is not quite so impressive when put in context.


(i) http://ukconsumers.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/ukconsumers.cfg/php/enduser

(ii) Specifically, P&G refuse to sign an independent Statement of Assurance to that effect - see www.caringconsumer.com/pdfs/companiesDoTest.pdf.

(iii) www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15334527? ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.

(iv) www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/cosmetics-company-memo-reveals-plan-to-sidestep-eu-animal-testing-ban-608577.html

Dr Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns 15.08.08


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.