I am a firm believer that cosmetics do not have to be tested on animals and that Canada should finally ban cosmetic animal testing. As a cruelty-free cosmetics advocate and supporter of the Be Cruelty-Free Canada campaign, I try my best to inform those around me about the unnecessary suffering that animals endure for the sake of "new and improved" cosmetic products.
Needless to say, when the opportunity arose to speak with Aviva Vetter, a Be Cruelty-Free Canada campaigner and program officer in the Department of Research and Toxicology of Humane Society International (HSI), I was thrilled. Launched in 2012 by HSI, the Be Cruelty-Free Canada campaign works to ban cosmetic animal testing in the country.
Like myself, Vetter wants to see an end to the unnecessary animal cruelty that takes place in Canada. Born and raised in Montreal, Vetter knew since a young age that she wanted to be an advocate for animals and end their needless suffering.
I admire Vetter for her tenacity of pursuing her dreams. She made sure that every step taken would lead her to her dream job at HSI, one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, which established its Canadian Montreal-based head office in 2005.
"I've always strived to find a way, whether it was through volunteering or now, a job, to do something that had some capacity to help animals," says Vetter. By studying hard and obtaining a degree in anthropology and political science from Concordia University and a degree in Communications from McGill University, she achieved her dream. Vetter has been with HSI for two years now.
Campaigning keeps Vetter busy with planning, corporate outreach, education and public policy, and motivation is never a problem. "What keeps me motivated in the Be Cruelty-Free Canada campaign is knowing that I am making a change for the better. Every task, whether it's small or big, is just one part of a larger whole that helps the entire campaign moving forward," she says.
It is discouraging when a cruelty-free company loses its cruelty-free status, and Vetter explains that setbacks are par for the course in her line of work. "There are disappointments, especially in animal cruelty, learning that a company has started testing again after ending the practice, for example," she says. "It's sad, but it just means that we have to work harder to make sure that we end cosmetic animal testing and we won't stop until it is done."
"Preparation and having a good team matters and when you have all of those things that work smoothly together, a setback isn't that bad because you can easily move forward from it," she adds.
Although bans on cosmetic animal testing are in effect in several countries, Canada still allows it.
"There is absolutely no need to test on animals for cosmetics anymore. We have thousands of safe ingredients that already exist, as well as many testing alternatives," says Vetter.
Science has advanced, and cosmetic animal tests are increasingly being replaced by non-animal methods such as using 3D skin models made from donated post-surgery human skin.
"Alternative tests have been proven to be quicker, more reliable and cost effective for companies to use," says Vetter.
It is awful that some companies still test their new products and ingredients by forcing rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and rodents to suffer through horrific practices such as breathing in poisonous fumes or having lethal chemicals rubbed onto their skin.
"The tests that do still occur have been designed in the 1930s and 1940s, like the draize test," says Vetter.
The outdated draize test is done by placing rabbits into stocks to immobilize the body and to keep their paws away from their eyes. Chemicals are poured into their eyes and cannot be rubbed away, leading to painful ulcers, burns and blindness.
"These innocent animals are not given pain relief and are left to suffer through these tests for a new mascara, lipstick, or shampoo," says Vetter. "When a company does test on animals, it's usually to test a new ingredient in order to create 'new and improved' products, and because they want to sell in China, where it is legally required to test on animals."
I was ecstatic when I learned that the Be Cruelty-Free Canada campaign achieved a historic milestone this summer. In June, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick introduced a bill into Parliament that could end the unnecessary suffering of animals used in cosmetic animal testing. Bill S-214 was re-introduced on Dec.10, 2015.
"We worked closely with Senator Stewart Olsen and, if passed, The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act seeks to ban domestic animal testing for cosmetics as well as importation of cosmetics that have been tested on animals," says Vetter. "We still need public support and we're working to increase petition signatures. Our goal is to reach 100,000 signatures and we're close to 90,000 now."
Vetter will continue to work hard and live her childhood dream until animal cruelty has ended.
"This is the ugly secret of the beauty industry. No animal should have to suffer and die for the sake of a new shampoo or lipstick," says Vetter. "The largest cosmetics market in the world, the European Union, has already banned this practice -- it's time for Canada to join the global trend and follow suit. Please spread the word, educate your peers, and sign the petition: www.becrueltyfree.ca."
For more information about Humane Society International/Canada, visit: www.hsicanada.ca
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