In February of 2012, PETA discovered that Avon, Mary Kay and Estee Lauder had resumed animal testing. The three companies had each been cruelty-free for over twenty years, but since China requires cosmetics to be tested on animals, all three companies now pay for their products to be tested on animals. For a short while, Urban Decay also planned to start animal testing, but announced in July of 2012 that they would not test on animals and would not sell in China.
While none of these are completely vegan companies, they have been considered "cruelty-free" because they did not test on animals. Urban Decay takes the extra step of identifying vegan products with a purple paw symbol, but not all Urban Decay products are vegan.
Testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals is not required by U.S. law unless the product contains a new chemical. In 2009, the European Union banned cosmetics testing on animals, and that ban will go into full effect in 2013. In 2011, U.K. officials announced an intention to ban animal testing of household products, but that ban has not yet been enacted.
Avon's animal welfare policy now states:
Some select products may be required by law in a few countries to undergo additional safety testing, which potentially includes animal testing, under the directive of a government or health agency. In these instances, Avon will first attempt to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data. When those attempts are unsuccessful, Avon must abide by local laws and submit the products for additional testing.
According to Avon, testing their products on animals for these foreign markets is not new, but it appears that PETA removed them from the cruelty-free list because PETA has "become more aggressive advocates in the global arena."
Estee Lauder's animal testing statement reads, "We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law."
Mary Kay's animal testing policy explains:
Mary Kay does not conduct animal testing on its products or ingredients, nor ask others to do so on its behalf, except when absolutely required by law. There is only one country where the company operates – among more than 35 around the world – where that is the case and where the company is required by law to submit products for testing – China.
Of the four companies, Urban Decay had had the most support in the vegan/animal rights community because they identify their vegan products with a purple paw symbol. The company even distributes free samples through The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, which certifies cruelty-free companies with their Leaping Bunny symbol. While Avon, Mary Kay and Estee Lauder may have offered some vegan products, they had not specifically marketed those products to vegans and did not make it easy to identify their vegan products.
Urban Decay had planned to sell their products in China, but received so much negative feedback, the company reconsidered:
After careful consideration of many issues, we have decided not to start selling Urban Decay products in China . . . Following our initial announcement, we realized that we needed to step back, carefully review our original plan, and talk to a number of individuals and organizations that were interested in our decision. We regret that we were unable to respond immediately to many of the questions we received, and appreciate the patience our customers have shown as we worked through this difficult issue.
While Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay claim to oppose animal testing, as long as they are paying for animal tests anywhere in the world, they can no longer be considered cruelty-free.