Where do Britons stand on animal testing?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 17, 2021, 9:31 AM UTC

A third support its use in medical products, but less than one in ten say the same for cosmetics

Singer Will Young handcuffed himself to the gates of a facility breeding dogs for laboratory experiments yesterday. This follows news from earlier in the year that a ruling from the EU could see animal testing for individual ingredients resumed in the UK for the first time since 1998.

The European Chemical Agency ruled in August that a German firm, Symrise, would need to conduct animal tests on two ingredients used solely in cosmetics to comply with EU rules on chemicals. This ruling could mean animal testing would need to be carried out on 150 cosmetic ingredients used in the UK after the government said it would align with the ECA decision.

Under current UK law, the testing of completed cosmetics and their ingredients on animals is illegal, and it is also illegal to sell products that have been tested in this way. For medicines, the law states that potential completed medicines and their ingredients must be tested in animals before human trials can begin – albeit with stringent restrictions over how and when testing is performed.

A YouGov survey in August found that most Britons did not know the current law around animal testing of cosmetics, but were surer of the law around medical testing.  

Only 34% correctly said that testing of cosmetic ingredients is illegal in the UK, while 37% didn’t know and 29% incorrectly said it was legal. Similarly, 25% of people wrongly think animal testing of completed cosmetic products is legal in the UK, while 35% rightly said it was not. Another 40% were unsure.

Approaching half of people correctly said that the testing of individual medical ingredients (47%) and completed medicines (45%) are legal, with only 13% of people wrongly thinking both of these types of testing are illegal in the UK.

Do people support animal testing?

Despite it currently being not only legal, but a legal requirement, Britons tend to oppose animal testing of medicines. Around two-fifths say they oppose the testing of completed medicines (41%) and medical ingredients (44%) on animals. Around a third of people do support animal testing of therapeutics, however, including 37% in support of testing completed medical products and 35% in favour of testing their ingredients.

Approaching three-quarters of people (73%) are opposed to the testing of both ingredients and completed cosmetics on animals. This includes 58% of people “strongly” opposed to both types of testing.

Current UK law does allow for some exceptions. Ingredients used in cosmetics can be tested on animals to examine environmental impact or worker safety – and only when there are no non-animal alternatives.

Some 47% of people think testing individual ingredients from medicines on animals is acceptable when there is no non-animal alternative, while 30% think it is not acceptable.

However, only 10% say it is acceptable to test cosmetic ingredients on animals even if there are no other tests available – the large majority (71%) think it is unacceptable.

See full results here