One province in China is taking steps to help animals by opening a lab that doesn’t test on them.

The regulatory organization for food, drugs, and cosmetics produced in China’s Zhejiang province, the Zhejiang Institute for Food and Drug Control (ZJIFDC), worked with international non-profit the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), to create the lab, which opened in November, 2017.

“IIVS helped train our staff and provided guidance on implementation as we developed the laboratory,” Yang Li, the vice director of ZJIFDC and head of the alternatives laboratory said in a statement.  “Their assistance, combined with our dedication to the development of a quality laboratory, has led to a successful opening.”

For a country that tested on over 16 million animals per year in 2006, this is a major step in the right direction.

China tiptoes toward more animal testing regulations

The new lab is part of a turn toward more humane practices in general. Over 30 countries around the world have banned testing cosmetics on animals, but China actually required animal testing for all cosmetics until 2014. Even today, many imported cosmetic products have to be tested in China. International pressure also plays a role in China’s efforts to reduce its reliance on animal testing. In 2016, China drafted its first national standards for animal testing, though it has yet to go into effect.

Bunny being tested in a laboratory.

Picture by the USDA via Wikimedia Commons, CC0.

China is working diligently to build capacity and infrastructure in alternative methods to support future changes in regulations,” the president of IIVS, Erin Hill, said in a statement. “The opening of the Zhejiang alternatives laboratory is a significant step toward this goal and we are honored to have been a part of its success.”

The lab can perform a variety of non-animal tests, such as skin and eye irritation, but some of the tests still aren’t accepted by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration. However, the lab will be able to test whether domestic and international cosmetic products cause harm after exposure to light.

Cosmetic products are often tested on animals.

Picture by sjajolika via Pixabay, CC0.

Animal testing is a worldwide problem

Just how often does animal testing occur? More often than you might think.

A 2005 study found that about 115 million animals were used in research that year. And while new technology such as 3D printing and the ability to reproduce human skin in a lab setting may eventually reduce animal testing, in 2016 the U.S. saw a 6.9 percent increase in the animals used in experiments.

Many species are tested on, but according to PETA, 99 percent are rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals. Unfortunately, the majority of these animals aren’t covered by many animal welfare protections, even in the U.S. This allows researchers to inflict extreme suffering, exposing them to harsh chemicals and highly invasive procedures.

How to help stop animal testing

One of the easiest ways to reduce animal testing is to buy cosmetic and skin care products from companies that no longer test on animals. Many substances have been used for years and already tested, so there is little need to undergo more testing.

However, companies are always trying to innovate, so a surprising number of well-known brand names do test on animals in the states or in their international market. To make sure your cosmetic products weren’t tested on animals, you can read LFT’s guide to reading cosmetic labels. In addition, when buying any product or household cleaner, do your research and look for a cruelty-free brand.

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Scientist holding lab rat.