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Have your say: How do we look good, without cruelty to animals in cosmetic testing?

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

It's a ban that could forever change the way we style our hair or apply our eyeliner – "we" in the general sense.

As of March 11, the European Union will no longer allow the sale of cosmetic products if they or any of their ingredients have been tested on animals, with no exceptions – the first jurisdiction in the world to do so.

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For years, animal lovers have relied on a bunny logo on personal care products to ensure good looks don't come at the expense of animal welfare. However, the words "not tested on animals" don't necessarily apply to the ingredients themselves: rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats are still used to test new cosmetic materials sold around the world – including Canada.

Humane Society International is leading a Be Cruelty-Free campaign to convince other countries to adopt a ban like the European Union's, but the cosmetics industry argues that some animal testing methods are still required to ensure their products' safety. Is consumer awareness enough, or is a global ban on cosmetics animal testing necessary?

This week's question: How can we ensure the safety of products destined for human use without being cruel to animals?

The experts:

Hilary Jones, ethics director at LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics

"We could stop the pointless search for wonder ingredients that stop us from looking old. There is a world of natural materials out there, and endless combinations of these tried and tested ingredients. To bring a product to market you simply have to test the finished formulation safely on a panel of human volunteers. There is no excuse for any level of animal suffering for us to have a new face cream or a new shower gel!"

Thomas Hartung, chair for evidence-based toxicology at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing

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"Keep up the pressure. Cosmetics are the wrong target but we are happy to have one: less than 0.03 per cent of animal testing is for cosmetics, however, the ban has made the cosmetic industry an engine of change for alternative methods, which have been and continue to be invaluable for all industries using animals for safety testing."

Mara Long, former research fellow at the Canadian Council on Animal Care

"Be patient: many non-animal testing methods have been used by cosmetics companies for decades. However, new testing methods can take up to 10 years from development to validation and regulatory acceptance, and there are still health endpoints for which there is no accepted non-animal model. The science is getting better, but it takes time."

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