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Household Products

In November 2015 the UK Government implemented a policy ban on the testing of household products on animals.

The ban was a culmination of a 2010 Coalition Government pledge to end the testing of household products and their ingredients on animals; after decades of calls for an end to this unnecessary use of animals in consumer product testing.

But not a single life was spared the day the ban came into effect and the government have done nothing since to improve the watered-down policy.

The policy only served to ban testing finished household products on animals. The individual chemical ingredients that make up the content of those products, however, can still be legally tested on animals. Faced with government in-action, the responsibility falls to representatives of the household products cleaning sector to ensure that companies in their sector do everything they can to avoid animal suffering.

Here’s what the ban actually means:

  • If less than half the amount of a chemical will be used in household products, it can still be tested on animals.
  • Household product chemicals can still be tested on animals for regulatory purposes.
  • If the commissioning company gives a really good reason, the chemical can be tested on animals. But the Government will not specify what those reasons might be.

Confused? You’re not alone. In essence, household product ingredients can still be tested on animals in the United Kingdom.

What is a ‘Household Product'?

For the purposes of the policy ban, ‘finished Household Products’ are defined as:

“Household Products are those bought by the general public for use in the domestic home and garden. They include, but are not limited to, detergents, polishes and cleaning products, laundry products, household cleaners, air fresheners, toilet cleaners, descalants, deodorisers, adhesives, paints and varnishes, sealants, caulks and other decorating materials.

This definition does not apply to:

  • Biocides, pesticides and plant protection products;
  • Food contact materials, food and feeding stuffs, medical products and medical devices;
  • Cosmetics (as they are subjects to other restrictions on the use of animal testing);
  • Products intended to be used in an industrial or institutional setting or by professionals; and,
  • Packaging or delivery systems e.g. pump sprays etc., unless these are inherent parts of the household product.”

(Advice Note 01/2015: Policy on Testing Household Products)

How many animals are tested on for household product ingredients in the UK?

Between November 1st 2015, the day the ban came into effect, and the end of 2016, 692 animals were used for household product testing in the United Kingdom. They were:

  • 478 rats
  • 212 mice
  • 2 rabbits

Those 692 animals were subjected to around 1700 total procedures; meaning that some of the animals, if not all, were subjected to multiple procedures.

But it still goes on!

The very latest government statistics published in July 2019, stated that in 2018, there were still 397 experimental procedures which involved the testing of household product ingredients.

Of the 397 animals used once in 2018; 52 mice, 13 rabbits and 59 rats were used in procedures that were assessed as mild, 219 rats were used in procedures that were assessed as severe.

How were the animals treated?

The simple answer is – you’re not allowed to know.

What does severe mean?

More than half of the animals were to ‘severe’ procedures. This means that their suffering was what even the government regulators consider to be ‘severe’.

There are five severity assessments:

  1. Sub-threshold: When a procedure was authorised under a project licence but did not actually cause suffering above the threshold of regulation, i.e. was less than the level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm that is caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice.
  2. Non-recovery (under general anaesthesia): When the entire procedure was carried out under general anaesthesia without recovery.
  3. Mild: Any pain or suffering experienced by an animal that was, at worst, only slight or transitory and minor so that the animal returns to its normal state within a short period of time.
  4. Moderate: The procedure caused a significant and easily detectable disturbance to an animal’s normal state, but this was not life-threatening. Most surgical procedures carried out under general anaesthesia and with good post-operative analgesia (i.e. pain relief) would be classed as moderate.
  5. Severe: The procedure caused a major departure from the animal’s usual state of health and wellbeing. This would usually include long-term disease processes where assistance with normal activities such as feeding and drinking were required, or where significant deficits in behaviours/activities persist. It includes animals found dead unless an informed decision can be made that the animal did not suffer severely prior to death.

However, Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 makes it a criminal offence to disclose any further information about animal experiments, including the purposes for each experiment, or how the animals were treated.

Which companies commissioned the testing?

Again you’re not allowed to know. Section 24 protects the names of the household product companies that commission animal testing.

That means you could have a product containing ingredients recently tested on animals in your cleaning cupboard right now, but the government doesn’t believe you have a right to know about it. You are expected to trust the word of the companies that want you to buy their products, instead of being provided with objective facts.

Learn more about Section 24.

This is why, if you want to avoid cruelly tested products, it is more important than ever to ensure you buy brands endorsed in our Compassionate Shopping Guide.

Do you believe animals deserve to be burnt, injected, cut up or poisoned for washing up liquid?

If not, please take action now to end ALL testing on animals for unnecessary household products. 

Take Action

We’re campaigning to end the testing of household product ingredients on animals in the UK – for good. We’re sick of waiting for the Government to change the laws to protect animals. Where they are failing animals, we will demand change as consumers. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to hear about our campaigns and help lead the way to a cruelty-free UK. 
  2. Help our campaign. The more support we have for a cruelty-free UK, the quicker we will get there.
  3. Become a compassionate consumer. Confused about household products and their animal testing policies?  We’ve done the research for you. Get your own Compassionate Shopping Guide and start today!