You may have caught this heart-warming video popping up on your Facebook feed: A squadron of beagles experiencing the outdoors for the very first time. First cautiously nosing their way outside, they tentatively sniff the air, and then, tails wagging, bottoms wiggling, and ears flapping, they launch into the yard. Some stay curled up in their carrier, frightened by the sudden open spaces and new smells, while others can’t support their own body weight, having never had enough room to be able to stand up and with the lack of activity leaving their little leg muscles undeveloped and wasting away. These are not excited puppies, out for their first jaunt, but older dogs who have never seen the sky or felt a fresh breeze. For these former beauty industry test subjects, the tight quarters of a cramped cage is the only home they’ve ever known, and a gloved hand holding a syringe the only human contact they’ve enjoyed. This particular video shows the rescue and release of 156 beagles from a Bangalore cosmetics manufacturer’s laboratory, by the charity, Compassion Unlimited Plus Action after the group petitioned the Indian government to refuse the lab’s animal testing license.

While these pups have moved on to happy homes – the charity says it was flooded with thousands of adoption requests – other dogs are less lucky. Along with monkey, rabbits, mice, fish and frogs, they’ll live out their days in a clinical environment as a beauty brand’s test subject until they have served their assigned function and are euthanised, The most common tests are skin sensitisation, skin irritation corrosion, and eye irritation says Anita Baker, Business Director of Lush Middle East, a brand that actively campaignins against animal testing. ‘The tests generally involve injecting the animals with harmful substances, exposing them to radiation and other toxic gasses, and testing their reaction to drugs and other chemicals...a scientific experiment that is likely to cause them pain, suffering, distress or long-term harm.’

With man’s best friends continuing to endure such brutal experimentation, is there any benefit to testing beauty products on animals? Not at all, says beauty blogger Kimberley Nissen, editor of The Plastic Diaries (theplasticdiaries.com). ‘Through my work as a beauty writer, I discovered what animal testing really meant and I was horrified. I then learnt that the barbaric tests that are being run aren’t just cruel, but actually pointless as we have developed testing protocols that are more effective without using animals.’

Baker agrees, pointing out that Lush has successfully created products across the face, body, hair, fragrance and colour cosmetics genres without animal testing. ‘We want to show the world that it is possible to invent, manufacture and bring to market an entire range of products that adhere to all the legal safety requirements, without ever having to test on animals along the way,’ she explains. Baker says that alternatives include 21st Century Toxicology (21CT), which focuses on toxicity pathways as an alternative to animal testing and observing human cells to test out new products, both of which the annual Lush Prize contributes research funds towards.

Dirhams over dogs

While the European Union banned the development and sale of animal-tested cosmetics and other beauty products in 2009, countries outside of still allow animal testing, and in the case of China, mandate it. The Chinese government requires by law for beauty imports to commission an approved laboratory to test its range on both mice, and a non-rodent animal (most commonly monkeys, and yes, beagles) to gain approval for sale. This means any beauty company that retails in China has, and will continue to test on animals. With China representing an estimated $50 billion [AED184 billion] in domestic sales of beauty products in 2015 and projected to become the largest market for personal care and cosmetics products globally in the next five to ten years, it’s a tempting win for brands set on world domination.

Recently falling afoul of public opinion is cult cosmetics brand NARS, which entered the Chinese market in June, immediately angering its fanbase by choosing money over morals. ‘The global elimination of animal testing needs to happen,’ said the Shiseido-owned brand in a statement responding to a threatened boycott. ‘We firmly believe that product and ingredient safety can be proven by non-animal methods, but we must comply with the local laws of the markets in which we operate, including in China.’ Nissen says that NARS’ decision to launch in China is disappointing and weakly defended, but not completely unexpected. ‘The customer demand is there [for cruelty-free] and that’s growing rapidly, but it’s the brands who are dragging their feet in making the change. In some cases, for example NARS, they have actually gone backwards,’ she notes. ‘China offers massive potential for revenue so it’s no shock that more brands want to enter that market, but as a result, it’s at the expense of their brand identity and betraying their loyal customers from other parts of the world.’

Unlike China, the UAE doesn’t require products to be tested on animals before being approved for market, nor are there facilities equipped or licensed to test on animals on the behalf of non-pharmaceutical brands. However brands that do test on animals can sell here, and are not required to disclose if they do. –

A cause for paws

Want to start a cruelty-free beauty routine? Chloe Ragg, a Dubai public relations agency owner and mum-of-one, says that it’s easier than you’d think, with a new line-up of products paired with her home-made coffee and coconut oil scrubs leaving her skin glowing. Ragg first sought out cruelty-free products when she was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and decided to commit to a plant-based diet, eliminating all animal products from her meals. Her decision soon crossed over into her beauty choices. ‘It got me thinking about the skincare and makeup I use, and it made obvious sense to switch over to cruelty-free products, not only for the benefits generally for my skin, but for the benefit of the animals that these products were tested on,’ explains Ragg. While she’s found the change worthwhile, her biggest hurdle was finding what brands were truly devoid of animal testing. ‘What I found hard was finding a company that is genuinely certified for cruelty-free make-up and beauty products. I think there are a lot of companies that aren’t exactly truthful when it comes to this – I really think it would deter a lot of people from using these products if they knew that animals were harmed during the testing phase.’

Nissan agrees that brands have become increasing crafty when it closes to disclosing their position on animal testing. She says that since she went cruelty free in 2014, she’s had to pay extra attention to how the products she reviews are labelled. ‘For example, some brands will put a logo of a little bunny or write ‘cruelty free’ on their packaging as a way to piggyback off authoritative organisations,’ she points out. Nissen says that even brands with marked animal testing sections on their websites can mislead consumers, as it’s not just the finished product that may be tested on animals, but the individual ingredients within a mascara, shampoo or moisturiser. This can be an exploited loophole with a tube of lotion stating ‘Not Tested on Animals’ only referring to the final product. ‘They use tricky wording instead of clear communication to portray their companies practices,’ gripes Nissen. ‘By doing this they aren’t lying, but they aren’t clearly telling you the truth either - they put the emphasis on you to interpret their words as the way they meant them.’ Both Nissen and Ragg say that they were both shocked about which brands engage in animal testing. ‘I wrongly assumed that the big drugstore brands like Maybelline, L’Oreal and Revlon wouldn’t test on animals,’ says Nissen. ‘I now always check PETA’s or Leaping Bunny’s website when I’m making a new purchase, as they list clearly which brands are involved in testing and to what extent.’ Now, as she bluntly puts it, ‘I feel so much better getting ready each day that no one died for me to be clean and presentable.’

If you watched that cute ‘free the beagles’ video we mentioned earlier, you may be wondering the same thing we were – why use beagles? It turns out that due to their small size, trusting nature and desire to please, that beagles are one of the easiest breeds for lab technicians and scientists handle, even when the dogs are in agony. Even when they are being injected, burned, blinded, and bred for a confusing, pain-filled and clinical life, beagles still crave our love. Which has us wondering, isn’t it time we finally loved them back?

Buy better

These beauty brands are committed to offering high-performing options that don’t hurt Fido.

Lush

All Lush products are 100% cruelty-free, meaning that no part of it is tested on animals, or linked to any supplier or other company that is associated with animal testing. ‘We buy ingredients from suppliers that do not commission tests on animals in order to make 100% cruelty-free cosmetics, [and] work collaboratively with forward-thinking scientists and animal rights groups to create alternative long-term solutions to animal testing for the global cosmetics industry,’ says Lush’s Anita Baker.

Try: Cupcake Fresh Face Mask (Dh75), a choc-mint vegan face mask that knocks out blemishes

The Body Shop

The green-leading stalwart has joined forces with Cruelty Free International, an animal protection and advocacy group, setting a goal to collect eight million signatures worldwide to petition the United Nations for an international convention that bans animal testing globally.

Try: Baked Blush (Dh76), a cheek duo that flushes and highlights

Herbal Essentials

This UAE home-grown skin and body care company has signed up to PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program, certifying that its products are proudly cruelty-free.

Try: Nutmeg & Sunflower Oil 24 Hour Cream (Dh189), a hydrating day and night cream that suits all skin types.

Kat Von D

The tattoo artist-turned-beauty magnate loves animals even more than she loves her winged eyeliner, often posting passionate manifestoes to social media deriding animal testing.

Try: Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Malice (Dh100), a stunning summer-ready coral lip colour, that won’t budge, feather or bleed.

Paul Mitchell

The haircare brand pulled its products from Chinese shelves when animal testing became a requirement, and uses only synthetic bristle brushes in its salons.

Try: Clarifying Shampoo Two (Dh56), a deep-cleansing shampoo that removes all traces of product build-up.