Today in Parliament I was supposed to be speaking up on behalf of animals far and wide who are still the targets of cruel animal testing practices. Sadly due to a clash, I’m no longer able to speak – but I wanted to share my speech with you here:
I am particularly grateful to be able to briefly contribute to today’s debate on a topic that clearly cuts through the political divide.
I would also like to take a moment to pay tribute to our wonderful colleague, Sir David Amess, who I know was a passionate campaigner on animal welfare.
I’m sure colleagues will be aware that Sir David and his dog Vivienne are finalists in the Westminster Dog of the Year 2021 competition.
The public vote closes this Wednesday and with no disrespect to any of the other competitors, I’ll be casting my vote for Vivienne and I hope you all will too.
Given the significant number of signatories to e-petition 581641, it is also abundantly clear that people across the UK feel very strongly about protecting animal rights in all forms too.
Indeed, recent reports – notably from the Guardian – which suggest that the Government may soon reconsider its policy towards the ban on the testing of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients on animals in the UK are incredibly worrying.
For me it is quite simple: we simply must acknowledge, and upkeep, our moral and ethical obligations to protect to all animals, big and small.
And while it is of course extremely welcome that animal testing practices and non-animal methods for research have developed and improved over the years, I remain concerned at the lack of transparency around animal testing project licence applications and the continued permissibility of ‘severe’ suffering as defined in UK law.
It is clear that the priority must be to urgently launch a comprehensive review of animal testing, with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency.
And the long-term objective simply must be to phase out animal testing entirely.
I am sure that colleagues on all sides of the political divide can share in my frustration and disappointment that in 2021, we are having to continue these age-old debates when it is clear that so many of our constituents who we all proudly serve are clearly opposed to animal testing in all forms.
Indeed, I would like to remind colleagues that it was the then Labour Government who first promised to end testing cosmetics on animals in our 1997 manifesto.
This then extended to the testing of cosmetic ingredients a year later in 1998.
I am proud that this vital policy was delivered here in the UK, under a Labour Government, 11 years before the EU-wide ban was brought in.
Labour led the way then, and we continue to lead the way now.
For the Government to consider a reversal of this progress when the strength of feeling is so clear would be devastating and a real step back.
Yet we also need to be aware of the global picture in determining the way forward when it comes to testing on animals.
Our departure from the EU has given the Government the opportunity to negotiate new trade deals with countries across the globe.
Yet worryingly, best estimates suggest that around 80% of countries across the globe still allow animal testing and the marketing of cosmetics that are tested on animals.
And it sadly comes as no surprise to learn that the market leader in this field is China.
In 2021 I am frankly shocked and appalled that China – one of the words fasted growing economies – has a cosmetic industry that actually requires products to be tested on animals before they are allowed on the market.
That is hugely concerning and is one of the biggest challenges we will have to overcome if we are to implement a global ban.
And we must also be clear that the cosmetics industry still has a key role to play in encouraging, implementing – and in some cases insisting – on good practice.
With this in mind, I am pleased that we are slowing seeing more progress on this issue.
The EU resolution that aims to establish a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023 is a real step forward in improving animal welfare and closing loopholes on cosmetic animal testing worldwide.
And a ban need not impact or undermine the thriving global cosmetics industry – indeed, it could have quite the opposite impact.
If countries outside the EU such as Guatemala, India, New Zealand and Turkey can put bans in place then surely other countries can follow suit too.
Ultimately, testing cosmetics on animals is indefensible from an ethical viewpoint.
It is utterly wrong for creatures to suffer unnecessarily for our vanity, because of global inaction—and a scientific viewpoint.
There has to be a better way.
It is time for cosmetic testing on animals across the globe to stop.
The beauty industry needs a makeover, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister about the guarantees that the UK Government is putting in place to prevent this country from becoming part of the problem once again.