Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act up for debate

By Kelsey Schaefer/The Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times

Bill S-214, also known as the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, completed its Third Reading in the Senate on June 19. The bill moved swiftly through committee with full support and has now moved forward to the House of Commons for the final stages before receiving royal assent and becoming law, according to the official website for the Parliament of Canada.

First introduced by New Brunswick Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen in December of 2015, the bill will amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit cosmetic animal testing and the sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured using animal testing, followed by the use of any evidence being derived from animal testing.

“We had not yet finalized the treaty with the European Union when I realized that one of the things they had done was banned the testing on animals for cosmetic purposes, which meant that our companies over here would have trouble competing in the new trade market,” said Olsen, in a telephone interview with Interlake Publishing on July 5. “I did a lot of research and spoke with the Humane Society and found that a lot of people are questioning the value of testing on animals because they, indeed, are not human.”

Just this past May, over 650,000 Canadians from across the country signed a petition that called for an end to cosmetic animal testing. This was the largest Canadian petition in nearly 70 years.

The Bill would also allow the government to treat certain drugs as cosmetics. The ban would, therefore, not only apply to testing makeup on animals, but also products such as toothpaste or sunscreen.

“Cosmetic companies have assured me that 99% of cosmetics are cruelty-free now, because they do have to appeal to those European Markets as well,” said Olsen. “No companies will admit it to us, if they are not.”

While Olsen believes that this bill is long overdue, Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan plans to vote in opposition of the bill.“There are already laws in place to protect animals. I believe that this is going too far and is a direct attack on anyone who is in the business of harvesting or agriculture,” said Bezan. “I’m all for the humane treatment of animals. Unfortunately, I don’t think this bill will have any positive benefits.”

Bezan further discussed how today’s criminal code already protects cruelty against animals.“Any person caught abusing animals is often treated more harshly in court than someone who harms a human being,” said Bezan. “I think that most the rural MPs in Manitoba will be opposing the bill.”

There are currently more than 600 companies certified as “cruelty-free” in North America. Canada will not be the first country to ban the use of animal-tested products. Countries such as India, Norway, Israel as well as the entire European Union have banned the use of animals for testing cosmetics.

“I believe the bill will do more harm than good,” added Bezan. “It’s the first step in banning animal use in any industry. The next thing will be to ban animal testing in health research, which will end up hurting us. Then they’ll want to ban chicken or beef production. I don’t believe that banning is the humane thing to do.”

The bill has yet to go through the House of Commons, which will reconvene in September. Bezan predicts that the House will vote sometime over the winter.

If the bill should pass and become an enforced law, it will take an expected three to four years for consumers to start seeing changes on their local cosmetic store shelves. Health Canada will be responsible for enforcement and regulation.

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