Beauty and the blemish

June 26th 2023 By Aaron Wise 2 minute read

As a species we strive for perfection, whether it be in our jobs, hobbies, or lifestyle. Put simply, that’s the nature of the beast (or homo sapiens, perhaps); it’s in our DNA. 

Achieving perfection isn’t easy, however, as behind every successful brand, celebrity and athlete, there are a string of failures – each of which helps us learn, evolve, and ultimately pave the way to perfection. 

But is perfection always necessary, or, indeed, ethical?

If you scratch beneath the surface of some household beauty brands, for instance, you might find an unsavoury number of ‘failures’ or tests they undertook to enable them to bring to market the products we’re all familiar with. I’m talking about the testing of substances and chemicals on animals – and unless you’re a narcissist, or perhaps a sociopath/psychopath, just that thought can leave a bit of a sour taste in your mouth. 

I’m not going to hide the fact I’m an animal welfare advocate, so the recent news that the UK Government is resuming animal testing for makeup ingredients after a 25-year ban is incredibly disappointing and unnecessary. 

Completely banned since 1998, animal testing in the UK had only been allowed for research into new medicines. I can at least appreciate and reason with animal testing for breakthrough medicines, although still a highly controversial practice, but resuming animal testing for beauty products?! Not cool.

A Home Office report in 2017 revealed that of the 1.89 million animals tested on that year, which included mice, fish, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, birds, goats, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, horses and monkeys, 5% endured ‘severe’ levels of pain, while 76% experienced some level of moderate to mild suffering.

The decision to resume animal testing for makeup ingredients in the UK comes hot on the heels of the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which (without giving away any spoilers!) explores themes of animal cruelty and humanity’s quest for perfection, regardless of the suffering that comes at the price of achieving it.

The film, which is enjoying high ratings at the Box Office while amassing positive reviews, seeks for us to have a little more empathy toward all creatures, furry or otherwise. It even prompted a statement from PETA senior vice president, Lisa Lange, who said: “Through Rocket [Racoon], [Director] James Gunn has put a face, a name and a personality on the millions of vulnerable animals being cycled through laboratories as we speak.”

It was never going to be great PR for the Government anyway, but for the announcement to coincide with the new Disney-owned Marvel film makes it even more distasteful. 

For me, it’s unfathomable to think we are allowing beauty to take precedence over cruelty. Then again, we as humans don’t have a great track record of having empathy for the animals around us. And, as much as it pains me to speculate on it, maybe that will always be the status quo if we continue to aim for perfection – even if it’s tainted.

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