An eco-labelling scheme, set up by the European Union to judge the environmental friendliness of products, fails to take into account the tests

on animals used to develop goods, anti-vivisection activists said yesterday.

Members of the British Union for the Abolition of

Vivisection (BUAV) criticised the EU scheme for not considering animal experiments when awarding the labels.

As part of a national campaign, the BUAV called on people to petition their MEPs and MPs, and demand a change in the way the scheme is operated. The labelling programme was established to clear up consumer confusion over whether products are kind to the environment, but Steve McIvor, the BUAV's campaign director, called it an 'outrageous con'.

'It is wholly inconsistent that products which have caused suffering to animals can be described as environment friendly,' he said.

A national poll carried out for the BUAV and the Body Shop showed that three quarters of those questioned felt that animal-tested cosmetics and toiletries should not be eligible for eco-labels. The survey also revealed that 78 per cent of people saw animal testing as an important environmental issue. This contrasts with findings from a Department of Environment survey carried out for the UK Eco-labelling Board, the Government quango which masterminds the scheme here, which showed 6 per cent subscribe to that view. Dr Elizabeth Nelson, the chairman of the UKEB, said no other EU country considered animal testing should be part of eco-labelling.

'It is seen as an ethical issue and not an environmental issue,' she said.

Dr Nelson added the UKEB had constantly brought to the attention of all other EU countries in the scheme just how important an issue animal

testing was. The BUAV's action yesterday in Bromley was part of its campaign which was launched in March with support from Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, and Jonathan Porritt, the environmentalist and author.

The organisation's leaflets are being distributed throughout Body Shop stores.

Also backing the campaign are a number of environmental groups including the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, the Women's Environmental Network and Shaun Spiers, the London South-East Labour MEP.