'This time, we're not taking no for an answer'

The Body Shop's Anita Roddick is part of a fresh campaign to stop cosmetics firms testing products on animals
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The Independent Online
More and more customers are demanding to know the reality of company behaviour. They know the truth that too few politicians seem to see - that it is business, not government, that has taken centre stage. The figures are staggering: the top 500 companies control 70 per cent of world trade. Business is more creative, powerful and faster than government. But if business comes without a moral code then God help us all.

Consumer vigilantes who are prepared to take action against companies if they do not like what they find are a new force to be reckoned with. Those who doubt it should ask Shell about public reaction to both the Brent Spar affair and the execution of the Ogoni environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa. A recent Greenpeace survey showed one in six French and Irish as being willing to boycott companies or products that harmed the environment. In Sweden it was one in three. These figures were backed by separate research by the Co-operative Wholesale Society here in Britain. A 30,000-strong Gallop survey in the spring of 1995 showed a marked rise in the number of consumers concerned about firms' ethical behaviour.

In the Co-op survey, animal welfare came top of customer concerns. This is no surprise to my company. Around the world we find customers are totally opposed to the animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients. A MORI poll we have just commissioned shows 73 per cent of Britons back a ban. These same customers are waking up to the fact that most cosmetic companies are not open about their policies on animal testing. But the moment of truth is coming.

Four years ago the animal protection movement and The Body Shop fought a huge campaign to get a Europe-wide ban on animal testing for cosmetics. For us it could never be morally acceptable to abuse an animal for something quite so trivial as a face cream. The European Parliament agreed. They voted enthusiastically for the ban. But behind closed doors the trans- nationals played for time. They used their political muscle to argue for a delay on the ban until 1998, but even then only if alternative, non-animal tests were developed. Of course, they promised rapid progress to achieve just that. The animal groups relaxed. Surely the end to these dreadful tests was in sight?

Now the reality is dawning. The cosmetics giants have conned the animal groups just like they con millions of women with their false images of so-called beauty. But now, the animal groups and consumers are fighting back. This year an unprecedented coalition of animal groups and progressive businesses has been formed. Cosmetic companies will be flooded with angry demands to know what they are doing to end the tests and whether they support the implementation of the proposed EU animal test ban. In addition, a new standard to approve cosmetic companies has been agreed by 10 leading North American animal groups and 18 European organisations. Those falling short of these exacting new standards and refusing to back the ban face a massive consumer backlash.

And not before time. Despite there being some 8,000 ingredients currently available to make cosmetics products without testing on another animal, the last statistics published by the EU showed some 30,000 animals used each year to test cosmetic products and ingredients - 3,500 of those animal tests took place here in Britain. It was over 20,000 in France. And in the home of the true giants of the industry, the US and Japan, you cannot even find out the level of animal abuse, let alone which companies are responsible for it.

Tomorrow, throughout Europe, we will join forces with the animal movement to demand an end to these tests. We will mobilise millions of customers to point the finger at the industry and the European Commission to stop hiding behind the scientific mumbo-jumbo and come clean. These tests can and should stop right now. If The Body Shop can produce a full range of products without animal testing while relying on existing ingredients, then so can they.

But the truth is that the trans-nationals will not back the ban. Their "dream cream" marketing is based on selling chemically intrusive compounds which, however fleetingly, distort human skin in the futile and demeaning search for the elixir of youth.

Not for them the celebration of all ages of women or the quest for a kinder world. So the battle lines are drawn. And this time, when it come ending animal testing in the cosmetics industry, none of us will take no for an answer.