Cruelty Free Europe expressed frustration over the Wednesday decision made by the General Court of the European Court of Justice regarding animal testing on cosmetic ingredients.

German fragrance and flavors supplier Symrise lost its appeal against a European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) decision requiring it to carry out toxicity tests on animals for two chemicals used in skincare products. 

The General Court's decision means Symrise is required to test UV filter homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, two formerly approved ingredients used exclusively in sunscreens, on animals.

"This decision is a huge backwards step in our fight to stop animals suffering and dying in the name of beauty," Cruelty Free International (CFI) director of science and regulatory affairs Dr. Emma Grange said in a statement on the animal protection NGO's website. "The existing bans, which have been in place in the U.K. for 25 years and European Union for two decades, are now virtually meaningless, as this case will set a damaging precedent in toxicity testing for cosmetics ingredients, even if they have been approved as safe for use for many years."

Dove, The Body Shop and a unique coalition of animal protection organisations take a stand against animal testing in cosmetics (Photo : Getty Images/Olivier Matthys)
MEP Sylwia Spurek poses in front of the European Parliament at the Place du Luxembourg on September 29, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium. Dove, The Body Shop and a unique coalition of animal protection organisations take a stand against animal testing to save cruelty free cosmetics in Europe with the support of MEPs in Brussels.

This ruling came after the German cosmetics manufacturer's plea to the ECHA to not test the two chemicals on animals.

In 2018, the ECHA mandated that Symrise perform toxicity tests on animals for the two ingredients used in sunscreens.

Symrise appealed this directive. However, in August 2021, the ECHA's board of appeal dismissed the appeal, which prompted the company to initiate cases in the General Court to overturn the previous ruling. 

The new court decision said that under the European Union's (EU) main chemicals legislation, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), animal testing for cosmetic ingredients must be conducted in cases where there are no approved non-animal alternatives.

The EU enacted the REACH legislation in 2006. Article 25 states, "In order to avoid animal testing, testing on vertebrate animals for the purposes of this Regulation shall be undertaken only as a last resort."

CFI, however, countered this by saying that "the Cosmetics Regulation bans apply whether there are approved non-animal approaches or not."

Moreover, the NGO claimed that the court bypassed a provision in REACH. 

"The court, wrongly in CFI's view, sidestepped a provision in REACH, which says that the REACH testing requirements apply 'without prejudice' to the cosmetics bans -- in other words, those bans should take precedence," CFI said, as reported by WWD.  "The ruling, therefore, turns on its head what EU citizens have been promised. The cosmetics bans were introduced before REACH -- hence the need for the 'without prejudice' clause."

In January, the European Citizens Initiative "Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics - Commit to a Europe without animal testing" gathered over 1.2 million validated signatures, marking the second ECI on this matter to surpass the 1-million-signature milestone, according to Humane Society International

Dr. Grange demanded that the EU be transparent with the public about the ban on cosmetics testing.

"Over 1.2 million European citizens expected that their demands would be heard when they signed our ECI, but they clearly have not," the director said. "The public has every right to feel their trust in the cosmetics bans has been undermined."

"We need the EU to come clean with the public that if the cosmetics testing bans remain so toothless then we are not as far along that path as we thought," she added. "The process now needs to be accelerated, irrespective of any further appeal in the courts."