China’s Removal of Mandatory Animal Testing

Jun 9, 2021

PPD EXCLUSIVE | Q&A with Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty Free International, Champion of China’s Removal of Mandatory Animal Testing from Laws

Chinese authorities have dropped the mandatory animal testing requirements from their cosmetic laws, and this may just be one of the biggest news stories for the cosmetic industry after years of tireless negotiation. This is set to open huge opportunities for cruelty-free beauty brands.

From May 1st, the Chinese government effectively ended mandatory animal testing for a majority of general cosmetics, marking a major next step to embrace cruelty-free cosmetics.

The cosmetics industry in China is currently the second largest in the world and valued at $43 billion USD as of February 2021 and is projected to surpass 61 Billion USD by 2023. The new regulation is set to further boost the market potential.

The initiative was championed by the leading animal protection and advocacy group Cruelty Free International, who works to abolish all animal experiments and issues certification of cruelty-free products marked with the symbol of a leaping bunny, known as the Leaping Bunny Program. The program is the international gold standard for cruelty free consumer products.

As CEO of Cruelty Free International, Michelle Thew (above) oversees the implementation of the organization's strategy and spearheaded its historic decade-long campaign to successfully end cosmetics testing on animals in Europe.
The cosmetics industry in China is currently the second largest in the world and valued at $43 billion USD

PingPong Digital partnered with Cruelty Free International in 2018, working closely together to establish a robust online presence for the organization in China. We assisted Cruelty Free International first to create their official Weibo and WeChat accounts, launched the organization’s official Chinese name, and later obtained its initial brand awareness on Chinese social media via advertising.

PingPong Digital helped open Cruelty Free International's Weibo and WeChat accounts in 2018 and launched social media advertising campaigns to increase its brand awareness in mainland China. Email for more information.

We were privileged to be able to interview Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty Free International, to get her insights on the current shift in policy in mainland China.

Q: What does these new provisions indicate in terms of China’s stance on animal testing?

A: It is great to know that joint efforts have reached a point where we are able to demonstrate that it is possible to have good quality, safe cosmetics without animal testing.

The latest provisions are the next step in enabling cruelty free companies to sell products in China without the risk of mandatory animal testing as long as some conditions set by the NMPA are met, including around GMP and availability of full safety assessment reports. We will continue to work alongside our Leaping Bunny companies, industry and the Chinese authorities to achieve further progress.

Q: What kind of impact do you think these provisions will have on the beauty market in China in the immediate future?

A: It’s great that Chinese consumers will soon also be able to purchase more cruelty free cosmetics approved by the Leaping Bunny program, knowing that cruelty free products are safe and of great quality.

Chinese consumers as a whole are becoming more aware of sustainability and environmental issues. Due to rising global consumer awareness and interest in cruelty free beauty products, we hope the changes to Chinese regulations will eventually result in greater choice of both local and international cruelty free brands in the market.

Q: How do you think the new policies on Animal testing will open China to more international brands? Do these new policies make it easier for cruelty free brands to enter China.

A: China is the world’s biggest and fastest growing market for cosmetics. It has been a long journey - but we are really excited about the future for cruelty free cosmetics in China. It is great to see these latest positive steps and we hope it won’t be long before Leaping Bunny brands can export general cosmetics to China while remaining cruelty free.

Q: What were some difficulties that Cruelty Free brands faced when trying to enter the Chinese Market?  

A: Our brands have not been allowed to export to China and maintain their Leaping Bunny approval.

Although China abolished the requirement for animal testing for non special-use products, including make-up, perfume and many skin care and hair care products manufactured domestically in 2015, concerns remained about post-market surveillance should any safety issues arise with a product that is already on the market. We therefore worked very closely with the authorities and our regulatory expert advisers in China to design our Leaping Bunny pilot project for brands to use domestic manufacture with an assurance that animal testing would not be triggered. That pilot has since transitioned to part of our overall Leaping Bunny program with our brands able to use this route as long as they work closely with us and our partners and meet some key criteria.

Q: Have Cruelty Free beauty brands expressed any worries and concerns over the new provisions? If so, what are they?

A: Obviously it takes a while to get to grips with any new system and we’re working with our brands to make sure we have everything in order. Companies will need a GMP certificate issued by the government in the country where the products are made to qualify for the animal testing waiver. As far as we’re aware, to date governments in the UK and France have announced that they have put in place those measures.

Q: What are the must-dos from now on for international Cruelty Free brands looking to enter Chinese market?

A: It is great to see these positive steps and we hope it won’t be long before Leaping Bunny brands can export general cosmetics to China while remaining cruelty free. We’re busy looking at the details, and we’re working closely with our brands, but everything is undoubtedly heading in the right direction. It’s great that Chinese consumers will soon also be able to purchase more Leaping Bunny cosmetics from the globally recognisable gold standard, knowing that products are safe and of great quality.

The new policy opens up the untapped opportunity for global cruelty-free beauty brands, like Aesop, who has quickly announced its plan for mainland China marketing. Email for more information.

Prompted by the new policy, cruelty-free brands who had long been denied official entry to mainland China have started making swift moves to the mainland Chinese market. Global skincare giant Aesop launched their official WeChat mini-program store and plans to open their first offline store in mainland China by the end of the year.

It is expected that the new policy will send a shockwave to the industry and unlock a huge opportunity for the wide range of cruelty-free brands that have been overlooked by Chinese consumers, and haven’t been able to sell directly in offline retail locations or on local e-commerce platforms.

Are you a cruelty-free cosmetic brand looking to break into Chinese market? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you achieve that.