December 5, 2021

Cosmetic Testing on Animals- Whether Legal and Justified in India?

Animal rights


Putting mascara on your dog to see if it would cause an allergic reaction to your eyes makes no sense, Right? But unfortunately, this is the sort of logic that is being used in the world of cosmetic testing, even though the results are unreliable and ineffective. Animals cannot speak for themselves and have to suffer just so that we humans can freely use Cosmetics. During such times, it’s important for us to step up, protect them and be the voice for these voiceless animals. So, through this paper the researcher intends to explain the rights of animals, legal position in India and alternative solutions available. This paper focuses only on Cosmetic products and will not discuss those that are produced for medical purposes.


Animal testing is any scientific experiment in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering[1]. The resulting effect of this on animals are blindness, swollen eyes, internal bleeding, organ damage, skin rupture etc. In most cases, pain relief is also not provided to them, leaving them to die. The Humane Society International has estimated that each year 500,000 animals suffer and die from cosmetic testing around the world[2]. Now, however, with more and more awareness being created, people are becoming aware and demanding ban on animal testing. The UK was the first nation to ban cosmetic testing on animals in 1998, followed by the European Union in 2013. Consequent to this, there was enormous canvassing for ban from various quarters in India, about which we will see further on in this paper.

Generally, there are two classes of people. First are the Proponents, who support animal testing, while second class are of Opponents, who oppose animal testing. The Proponents believe that the animal testing has enabled the development of numerous life-saving treatments, that there is no alternative method for researching and that strict regulations prevent the mistreatment of animals. While the Opponents are of the view that it is cruel and inhumane to experiment on    animals, because they are so different from human beings that research on them often yields irrelevant results and also since there are many alternative methods available to the researchers[3].

Here, I agree with what the opponents have to say. As both, humans and animals have different chemicals present in the body, they react differently when exposed to the same product. So, the various tests carried out on animals is no guarantee for using those products on our body. Just because we humans consider ourselves superior to animals, does not make animal testing justified. Moreover, millions are wasted to test these drugs on animals, 90% of which don’t even make it to the patients. And a lot of this wasted money is actually the taxpayer’s money – our money.

Rights of the Animals:

Animal rights are the belief that animals have a right to be free from human use and exploitation. There is a common misconception that Animal right activists (Opponents of Animal Testing) want non-human animals to have the same rights as humans. No! No one wants cats to have the right to vote, or for dogs to have the right to bear arms[4]. The issue here should not be whether, animals should have the same rights as humans, but whether we humans have a right to use and exploit them for our selfish purposes. As Peter Singer has stated, “The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identicaltreatment; it requires equal consideration. This is an important distinction when talking about animal rights. People often ask if animals should have rights, and quite simply, the answer is “Yes!” Animals surely deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation”[5].

However, the Opponents of Animal rights (Proponents of Animal Testing) believe that rights apply only to human beings. They believe so, because only humans possess the ability to think and talk. While, these Fundamental rights surely are valuable in nature, they would be worthless without any mechanism to uphold them. So, the mechanism that upholds our rights is the fact that other people are constrained by duties in their behaviour towards us. Rights and duties are two sides of the same coin, and one cannot claim to have certain rights without having to perform the corresponding duties. So, if we assume that animals are granted rights just as human beings, it will logically also have duties. And, it will then be subject to the same legal procedures and be held liable for their actions just as human beings[6]

But should rights be granted based on the ability to think and talk? I don’t think so, because if that’s the case then the babies and the mentally ill would have no rights too. Duties are not good criteria either, because individuals who are incapable of performing their duties, still have a right not to be experimented on[7].  Jeremy Bentham summed it up accurately when he said, “The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer’[8]?” Yes, animals do suffer and to the same extent that humans do. They feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, and loneliness. They show their emotions just the way we humans do. So, whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take them and their emotions into account[9].

In 2000, the Kerala High Court in the case of ‘N.R. Nair v. Union of India’ decided that “legal rights should not be the exclusive preserve of humans which has to be extended beyond people thereby dismantling the thick legal wall with humans all on one side and all non-human animals on the other side”[10]. Later-on, in 2014, the same view was further developed by the Supreme Court in ‘Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja’ (Also known as the Jallikattu Case) where it held that animals too have the right under Article 21 of the Constitution to live with honour and dignity[11].

Legal Position in India:

In India, various provisions have been made by Law to protect and prevent the animals from harassment. Right from Constitutional provisions in the form of Fundamental Duty[12] and Directive principles[13] to Statutory Acts in the form of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1960 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972. But there was no Act which dealt specifically with Cosmetic testing on Animals. So, the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules 1945 were brought into force.

To prevent cosmetic testing on Animals, various campaigns and appeals were undertaken from various quarters, including the ‘PETA’, ‘Cruelty Free India’ and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi. After hearing them, the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare officially banned the use of animals for testing cosmetics in May 2014, followed by ban on import of animal tested cosmetics in Oct 2014. Following are the two very important provisions under Drugs & Cosmetic Act[14]

135-B. Prohibition on import of cosmetics tested on animals– No cosmetic that has been tested on animals shall be imported into the country.

148-C: Prohibition on testing of cosmetics on animals– No person shall use any animal for testing cosmetics. Further, when there is a need for safety evaluation of cosmetic products to demonstrate absence of oral toxicity and/or oral mucosal irritation, the manufacturer shall submit the safety data based on alternative non-animal test methods to the concerned State Licensing Authorities for their consideration and approval.

Any person who violates the Act is liable for punishment for a term which may extend from 3-10 years and/or shall be liable to a fine which could be Rs. 500-10000[15]

It is indeed a matter of pride for us that, India is the first South Asian nation to impose ban on animal tested cosmetics.

Alternative Solutions Available:

Animal testing has in the past helped scientists find cures and treatments to major diseases and illnesses that otherwise would not have been possible. Similarly, earlier we might have needed to hunt or use animals for our survival, but that’s not the case anymore. Human beings have evolved as a species. And so, should our thinking. Animal testing is not only a cruel and outdated method which unnecessarily tortures and kills animals but it has also proven to be useless due to its inaccuracy, so, the choice should be simple. Moreover, this animal experiments have certain scientific limitations. As different species respond differently, the results of the experiments can be quite variable and difficult to interpret. This means the consumer safety cannot be guaranteed. Even then these experiments continue to be carried out.

However, now the animal experiments can be a thing of past with availability of so many non-animal tests. These alternatives produce results that are not only more relevant and efficient but also cost-effective. The FDA and international regulatory agencies currently accept over a dozen different alternatives to animal testing[16]. Also, there are already many products in the market that are made using thousands of ingredients that have a long history of safe use. So, the companies can ensure safety by choosing to create products using those ingredients. Following are some of the alternative methods[17]

  • In Vitro Test: Nowadays, companies opt for the In Vitro Test to find out irritation to eye, skin or dermal and airway sensitivity, and other possible threats to humans. In this test, human tissues are examined in test tubes, to study the side effects of cosmetic products. This is not only a cruelty-free way to test, but also a more reliable indicator of how that product will work on human beings.
  • Computer Models: Computers can be used to detect drugs, that pose a threat to humans, at an early stage. Advanced computer programs can predict the adverse effects of drugs more accurately than what the animal testing can.
  • Skin Squared Test: This is a test where a 3-dimensional human cell structure is used to calculate the level of toxicity in a substance. These are cheaper, faster, and more accurate at predicting human reactions to a product than the old animal tests ever were. 
  • Skin Cloning: Significant progress has been achieved by scientists in cloning human skin, so that the effects of cosmetic products can be predicted more accurately by testing them on human skin rather than animal skin.
  • Test tube study: The use of animal organs, cells, or tissue cultures is also an alternative. Research companies can use body parts and organs taken from animals slaughtered for the meat industry to perform such tests.
  • Human Volunteers: Human volunteers are also coming forward to participate in various testing processes. PETA employees have themselves volunteered for human testing of vaccines

If we still use the same cruel and ineffective methods to test cosmetic products, it means we’re either too lazy to use our brains and innovate or too cruel to implement the already existing alternatives. The benefit to human beings of these practices are simply too small to justify their continuation[18]. Next time when we think of purchasing cosmetic products, we must be aware as to how the companies we support test their products. If we aren’t aware, we could very well be the reason for the abuse and sufferings of these animals with our money. Cosmetics are not as such a necessity for humans in terms of their health and survival. So, I believe, we ought not to purchase the ones tested on animals, even if the pleasure of consuming these products outweighs the pleasures of all the other animal friendly alternatives. Because enjoying cosmetics at the cost of animals suffering is not worth it.  We should not be making bad choices when so many good alternatives are available. Fortunately, many cosmetic companies have now started adapting to the growing movement that doesn’t use animals for testing their products. Hopefully, that number will only grow. Soon, there will be no excuse for not using the alternative solutions available.


“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals[19]”. Virtually every ingredient in the past has been tested on animals but not anymore. With the advancement in technology and availability of so many alternative methods, animals are no longer required for testing and humans can enjoy cosmetics without having an animal’s blood sacrificed. The selfish gains of some people cannot justify significant suffering of the animals. A society in which human beings are to kill animals for advancement of their needs results not in progress, but in dangerous inconsistency. Animal testing is on the wrong side of history, so, lets together do our part to actively end it. It’s high time that we as a society consciously and collectively abide by the set rules and make this world a better place for animals too.


Literatures and Books Referred-

  • Peter Singer- Animal Liberation
  • Jeremy Bentham- The Principles of Morals and Legislation
  • Cass R. Sunstein- The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer
  • Immanuel Kant- Lectures on Ethics

Sites Referred-


End Notes:





[5] Peter Singer- Animal Liberation 



[8] Jeremy Bentham- The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chap. XVII, Pg. 144

[9] Peter Singer- Animal Liberation 

[10] N.R. Nair v. Union of India, AIR 2000 Ker 340.

[11] Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547

[12] Article 51A(g)- To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

[13] Article 48A- To protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.



[16] (See the Table)


[18] Cass R. Sunstein- The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer, Pg. 8

[19] Immanuel Kant- Lectures on Ethics

Author Details: Mithali S. Nayak (VES College of Law)


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