ORDERS OF THE DAY
Food and Drugs Act
February 3, 2016
The Honourable Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen :
Honourable senators I am pleased to rise today and move second reading of Bill S-214, the cruelty-free cosmetics act.
The intention behind this act is to end, in Canada, the use of testing on animals for cosmetics purposes and the sale of cosmetics which have been developed or manufactured using animal testing.
The cruelty-free cosmetics act achieves this goal by amending sections 16 and 18 of the Food and Drugs Act to add prohibitions on conducting animal testing in Canada and on using evidence derived from animal testing to establish the safety of cosmetics after this bill is passed.
Functionally, the cruelty-free cosmetics act adds new definitions to section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act to set out exactly what "animal testing" and "cosmetic animal testing" mean for the narrow focus of this legislation before us.
Testing cosmetics on animals is a cruel practice and harkens back to the industrial environment of the mid-20th century. Many of the tests on animals conducted today were developed in the 1940s, an era when our understanding of how chemicals interact with the human body was very basic. Science and technology have advanced considerably since those days, but in the 21st century, nearly 200,000 animals still suffer and die every year in the name of cosmetics and beauty products.
The types of testing conducted on animals vary depending on the type of product a company wishes to market. Typically, testing for cosmetics purposes involves rubbing chemicals on the shaved skin of an animal or dripping substances into their eyes to examine the kind of irritation it causes.
Some tests involve repeatedly force-feeding chemicals to animals to examine the long-term effects of exposure. In other cases, animals are forced to swallow massive amounts of a substance in order to determine how much it takes to kill them. Colleagues, as you can imagine, these tests cause pain and distress to animals, who in many cases are offered no relief until they are euthanized at the end of testing.
Animal testing is no longer the only route to determine the safety of a product. Companies now have many alternative choices, since more than 40 non-animal tests have been validated for use, and more are emerging every year.
These modern alternatives offer the latest in science and technology and in many cases are better at determining how humans react to a chemical or a substance than animal-based tests from the last century. Labs are now able to grow human skin and use it to test for irritability, or we can now harvest living corneal material from slaughterhouses to test for eye corrosion. Other tests use advanced computer models to simulate the effect of chemicals and substances on the whole body or relate the data harvested from testing living human cell cultures.
Some in the cosmetics industry are concerned that in rare cases, animal testing may be required to evaluate the safety of a product.
The cruelty-free cosmetics act addresses the concerns of the cosmetics industry in section 5, by providing the health minister with authority, under section 18.2 of the Food and Drugs Act, to authorize animal testing when there are there is no alternative to evaluate a product or ingredient when there are substantiated human health concerns.
To help the minister apply the exemption in section 5 of the cruelty-free cosmetics act in a consistent manner, I have proposed to clarify the authority of the health minister by authorizing animal testing only in the case of products or ingredients that are already widely used and cannot be replaced by something else.
The Canadian public agrees that it is time for animal testing to end. Polling done in the past has indicated that more than 81 per cent of Canadians support a national sales ban on cosmetics and ingredients that have been tested on animals. Nearly 100,000 Canadians have already signed the #BeCrueltyFree petition, and it is clear that the issue of animal testing has touched the minds and hearts of many Canadians.
Being mindful of the public interest, the cruelty-free cosmetics act amends section 18.2(2) of the Food and Drugs Act to allow for a period of public consultation before any authorization for animal testing is issued under the exception clause I have established in section 5 of the act.
To be clear, nothing is being established here to limit the government in any way. I have constructed my legislation with a mind to helping the government end animal testing and to do so in a responsible way.
One issue that became clear during my consultations with the cosmetics industry is that there seems to be a legislative and regulatory issue within the Food and Drugs Act regarding the differences between cosmetics and health products.
Unlike in the European Union, the definition of "cosmetics" found in the Food and Drugs Act is quite narrow. Any product which makes "a therapeutic claim," as defined in the act, can be classified as either a drug or a natural health product, depending on the nature of its ingredients. Products seen by the average Canadian as cosmetics are often not regulated as such by the government. The common example the industry uses when illustrating this is comparing lipstick. Some lipsticks are regulated as drugs and others as cosmetics.
I've studied these concerns and understand they may raise a regulatory problem in the application of the cruelty-free cosmetics act. To deal with this issue, I have included a clause amending section 18.3 of the Food and Drugs Act, giving the government authority to designate, by regulation, drugs to be treated as cosmetics for the purposes of the prohibitions in the act.
The scope of this act is intentionally narrow, or rather, intentionally focused on achieving the end of animal testing in Canada. The type of amendment required to entirely eliminate the definitional issue between cosmetics, drugs and natural health products would be a broad policy change, more appropriately included in government legislation.
The cruelty-free cosmetics act is a response to the desire of many Canadians to end a practice they find disturbing. Canadian society has moved beyond accepting as a given the necessity of torturing animals for beauty products.
Canadians are concerned about the health and welfare of animals and are troubled that in the 21st century companies still engage in testing practices developed before the Second World War. With the level of science and technology available today, most Canadians do not find it necessary to conduct animal testing anymore, and the legislation before us would help accomplish this goal.
The debate on animal testing is nothing new. Parliamentarians have been discussing regulating how we should treat animals since long before Confederation. One of the first laws dealing specifically with regulating the treatment of animals used for scientific research was the United Kingdom's Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. Charles Darwin was a famous proponent of this act, noting in a letter: "I quite agree that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology; but not for mere . . . detestable curiosity."
The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 created an offence for researchers who conducted experiments outside the scope of the overriding principle that experiments which inflict pain should occur only when ". . . the proposed experiments are absolutely necessary for the due instruction of the persons . . . for saving or prolonging [human] life . . . ."
Canada's legislative record on animal testing is more complicated than those of other countries. There's no clear statement on animal testing in Canada at the federal level other than permitting its use under the regulations attached to the Food and Drugs Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. However, part of the animal welfare aspect of the issue of animal testing is dealt with in the Criminal Code, and that is "causing unnecessary suffering to animals" and "causing damage or injury to animals by willful neglect," which are offences under sections 445.1 and 446 of the Criminal Code. The protections these sections offer in the scientific setting are limited. In Reece v. Edmonton (2011), the judge noted:
. . . it must be conceded that the basic animal welfare model still involves attempting to balance animal pain against human need or pleasure. This approach is reflected in a number of areas: economic, . . . scientific . . . and social . . . . Whether and in what circumstances the balancing of competing values should be re-calibrated . . . is largely a question for the Legislature.
Provincially, all our provinces and territories have legislation which generally applies to animal welfare. Some of their laws are stronger than others and specifically address research activities directly, as Quebec does in section 55.9.15 of the Animal Health Protection Act and Nova Scotia does in section 2.1 of its Animal Protection Act. Other provinces refer to codes of conduct or standards to be respected, as in section 2 of Alberta's Animal Protection Regulation, which refers to documents from the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
Our provinces are moving forward to protect our animals. It is time for the federal government to take leadership at the federal level and adopt the cruelty-free cosmetics act, as well as encourage the provinces to strengthen their legislation to prevent unnecessary cruelty to animals.
While Canada has lagged behind in this issue, our closest trading allies and trading partners, the European Union, Israel, India, New Zealand and Turkey have moved to enact full or partial sales and marketing bans for the products which have been produced through animal testing. The European Union's 2013 Cosmetics Regulation and previously their 2003 cosmetics directive are seen as models for responsibly ending the practice of animal testing. As of now, the EU sales ban is in force in 28 countries, representing the world's largest market for beauty products.
Many countries are in the process of adopting legislation or regulations like the measures contained in the proposed "Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act." The United States Congress is debating HR 2858, the proposed "Humane Cosmetics Act," which was introduced with bipartisan support in June 2015.
The "Humane Cosmetics Act" would establish a prohibition on testing cosmetics on animals and a ban on selling or transporting any product in the Unites States if it has been developed or manufactured using animal testing.
In Canada, happily we are told very little animal testing actually occurs. Our cosmetics industry should be commended for moving forward towards eliminating this backward practice. Representatives from the cosmetics industry have informed me that our industry is committed to the elimination of animal testing as alternative methods are developed, validated and accepted by Health Canada.
Currently, more than 99 per cent of all safety evaluations related to cosmetics products or their ingredients are now being conducted without animal testing as the Canadian industry has adopted alternative testing methods for assessing skin and eye irritation, dermal penetration and absorption, phototoxicity and genotoxicity.
For the most part, the Canadian cosmetics industry is heavily weighted toward importing products rather than producing them. The United States is our main trading partner but we are importing increasing amounts from the European Union. With the restrictions in place in the EU, we face a market access barrier when it comes to Canadian products or ingredients which use animal-tested substances. If the United States adopts the "Humane Cosmetics Act," Canada would be at a significant disadvantage and could find itself in the undesirable position where our country becomes a hub for animal testing.
Senators, it is clear the cosmetics industry worldwide is moving forward in a cruelty-free direction. Many of North America's best-known brands have successfully marketed their products without the need to conduct animal testing. Companies like LUSH, H&M, Paul Mitchell and Urban Decay have taken strong stances against animal testing and have been actively supporting efforts to curb this practice in the broader North American industry.
When the European Union enacted its ban, it was widely seen as an opportunity to update testing methods and innovation. Available cell-based and non-animal safety assessment methods are less expensive and less time consuming. Companies that continue to use animal testing risk a future of economic consequences as the world's industries move beyond this obsolete practice.
My personal approach has been to present this legislation as an incremental step towards improving the state of animal welfare in our country. The "Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act" is a starting point for a parliamentary debate about the humane treatment of animals in the 21st century. As a strong proponent for animal welfare, I truly believe this bill strikes a balance between protecting animals from backward practices and preserving the Canadian industry from undesirable market conditions.
Senators, we have before us an opportunity to modernize our country. The time has come for the Canadian government to step forward and take action to prohibit animal testing and bring Canada into the 21st century. It's our turn to be leaders on the world stage on an issue that has international ramifications for how we will be viewed in years to come.
Colleagues, I ask you to support the "Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act" and join me in making 2016 the year that Canada takes its first steps towards evolving into a cruelty-free economy.
Thank you, senators.