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EU Sales Ban on New Cosmetics Tested on Animals: Impact on Alternative Methods, WTO Implications and Animal Welfare Aspects


Irmela W. Ruhdel

In 1993, the European Union (EU) adopted Directive 93/35/EEC, calling for a sales ban on new cosmetic products containing ingredients tested on animals after 1 January, 1998, provided that alternative methods had been developed by then. In May 2000, for the second time, the European Commission postponed that ban. The Commission justified the repeated postponement of the sales ban by saying that no animal-free methods were available, although three in vitro methods were scientifically approved in 1997. With three years delay, these methods have been published and therefore “made available” in the EU. OECD acceptance is still awaited. Another reason for the postponement was the fear of possible World Trade Organisation (WTO) conflicts. However, according to WTO rules, the protection of public morality or animal health could justify a restriction of the free trade principle. From the animal welfare point of view, an unqualified EU sales ban, combined with an animal testing ban, would provide the incentive to further promote the development and acceptance of alternative methods and to prove that ethical standards are legitimate concerns under WTO rules.