By Aashna Sheth
Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under the helmsman ship of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, recently issued a Gazette Notification, which comprised amending the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to include banning animal testing of cosmetics while disallowing imports of animal tested cosmetics into the country as well. This move made India the first country in South Asia to impose such a ban, thereby emulating the policies implemented by the European Union and Israel.
This situation was dealt with using a two-pronged approach. In May 2014, a new rule 148-C was added to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, which stated that ‘No person should use any animal for the testing of cosmetics’. Later this year, the ministry issued rule 135-B, which banned the import of cosmetics tested on animals. This move has been looked upon favorably by different animal rights organizations who have worked hard and spoken up about the importance of this issue for several years. By introducing a scheme such as this and establishing itself as a cruelty free zone, animal rights groups believe that India can set an example for other countries, so that they follow suit and implement similar policies.
The question we need to ask however is, what are the implications of the introduction of such a ban? When looked at from the perspective of morality and ethics, using animals and treating them cruelly is essentially incorrect; this is the primary argument advanced by animal rights groups. More so, it has also been argued that the animals used are subject to a large number of side effects because of the chemicals used, further they also have to endure unbearable pain and discomfort. These testing methods are used mainly because they are cheaper and a lot more convenient; however, animal rights groups also argue that animal testing is not the only way out for the testing of cosmetics; other methods must also be looked into and developed. Furthermore, economists believe that by imposing this ban, India will now have access to a larger market for its cosmetics goods, thereby paving the way forward for improved trade and economic ties with the European Union.
Yet, this situation cannot be looked at solely from one perspective. Although it can invariably be argued that by resorting to this approach India is championing the cause for the protection of animals and their rights, there are several loopholes, which need to be looked into and addressed. Firstly, the question we need to ask is whether this policy applies to the testing of finished cosmetic products only or to the testing of ingredients used in these products as well. If this ban is only imposed on finished goods, animals could still be used to test the ingredients used in these products, thereby failing to advance the cause for the protection of animals and their rights. If it applies to both, although the harm done to animals would be considerably lesser, pharmaceutical or industrial companies whose products comprise similar core ingredients could continue to exploit the animals. Thus, this solution is not all encompassing .
Secondly, one of the biggest challenges this ban will pose is looking for alternative methods for the testing of these products. Looking for new methods requires an adequate amount of resources and time. Companies will now need to allocate a large amount of their funds into innovation, research and development. Scientists argue that it will be extremely difficult to find alternatives to methods which require convoluted metabolic and physiological processes. More so, there is no guarantee that these methods will be reliable as they will be considerably novel. The European Union banned the testing of cosmetics on animals in 2003 and imposed a marketing ban (in which animal tested cosmetic products could not be sold in the country) in 2013. This time period of 10 years was provided for the development and authorization of alternative methods before setting the policy in stone. India however, has not even left a lag of a year between the introduction of the two approaches, making the decision a hasty one.
Furthermore, in some countries testing cosmetics on animals is essential and is required to make sure the product is safe to use. These countries believe in ‘safety first’ which is why their policies have been severely criticized by governments and different animal rights organizations who do not believe in the same. Although the safety and rights of animals must be respected, the products endorsed by these companies should meet safety standards so as to retain their consumer base. What is more necessary than banning these products, is creating awareness about this contentious issue.
By introducing this policy and being the first country in South Asia to do so, India has shown itself in a positive light. The USA, Brazil and Australia (to name a few) have introduced bills to put in place a similar policy as well. Although India has signaled a forward thinking approach when it comes to development and the protection of animal rights, it’s equally important to fill in the lacunae so as to understand and tackle this situation entirely.
Aashna Sheth is a 2nd year law student at Government Law College in Mumbai. She believes that the best form of expression is writing. She is an avid reader and deems it essential to keep abreast with recent developments. Hoping to become a successful lawyer some day, she also plays the piano and speaks fluent French. She can be reached at:[email protected].