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Understanding China’s Animal Testing Laws

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Cosmetics sold or made in China have been under scrutiny by shoppers worldwide as China remains to be one of the last country that requires cosmetics to be tested on animals. In June 2014, compassionate consumers were thrilled to hear that China finally made some changes to their animal testing requirements.

With these changes, 10,000 animals a year will be saved from being tested on! (Horray!) However the changes also created a lot of confusion about whether companies making or selling their products in China should be considered cruelty-free.

To help you better understand China’s current animal testing laws, I’ve created this infographic to clarify if a product needs to be tested on animals as required by China’s laws or not.

Guide to Understanding China's Animal Testing Laws 2016

*INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED: JAN 17, 2016. You’re welcome to share the infographic but please do not edit, crop, or change original image.

As noted on Humane Society’s website, here is a short version of the state of cosmetic animal testing laws in China today:

1. Foreign imported ordinary cosmetics – still require animal testing
2. Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing no longer an absolute requirement
3. Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing
4. Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
5. Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.

*Ordinary cosmetics include make up, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products.

**Special use cosmetics include hair dyes, perms and hair growth products, deodorants, sunscreens, skin-whitening creams, and other products that make a functional claim on the label.

If you want more information, check out HSI’s website and FAQ.

Thank you Humane Society’s Be Cruelty Free campaign and for all of the hard work they’ve done to help animals in need! Be sure to sign the global pledge and #BeCrueltyFree!

80 Responses
  • Khalida
    August 10, 2017

    Dear Vicky, thank you for the article. I saw someone asking the question “Why it is mandated in China to test on animals?” Would you please share your view?

  • Niviya Vas
    July 12, 2017

    Hi Vicky,

    This is such a great blog, and the infographic makes it so simple to understand the Chinese laws on animal testing.
    Would you be okay with my sharing the infographic with a link to this page on my blog? I have co-started a cruelty-free blog for brands available in India, and would love to be able to educate readers with this piece.

    • Vicky Ly
      July 12, 2017

      Hey Niviya,
      Glad to hear you found the infographic helpful! Yes, you can totally share it with your readers. All I ask is to please don’t make any adjustments, modify, or crop the image and credit this page with a link =)

  • Milena Krecisz
    June 6, 2017

    Hi Vicky,
    Thank you so much for this post! I have come across it when creating my own post about animal testing in china. I have borrowed your amazing info graphic to add to my post as it makes the understanding so much easier. I”ll link to your website but please do let me know if don’t wish me to copy it.

    Thanks for helping animals 🙂

    • Vicky Ly
      June 7, 2017

      Hi Milena!
      Thank you so much for asking!! Yes! You can definitely share the infographic image to your readers =) just as long as you please link it back to this post! Thank YOU for being a voice for the voiceless <3

  • Marie McGurk
    June 4, 2017

    Hi Vicky

    I’m still a little confused?
    so if i buy a cruelty free brand in England and the label states made or produced in China
    is it still cruelty free?

    • Milena Krecisz
      June 6, 2017

      Hey! As long as this product is not sold in China then animal testing shouldn’t be required

    • Vicky Ly
      June 7, 2017

      Yes, exactly what Milena said is true. It’s only an issue if the products are SOLD in China. If you’re buying a cruelty-free brand in England but they say that they make or produce their products overseas in China, BUT they don’t distribute or sell in China… then they’re still cruelty-free.

  • Amanda Tan
    September 6, 2016

    Hi VIcky

    We now know that China law require animal testing in order to sell but WHY?

  • Ana Almeida
    August 29, 2016

    Hey Vicky!

    Thanks a lot for posting such clear piece of information 🙂 Is this the current status, as of today’s date: 29th August, 2016?
    I’ve been asking some of my favourite brands this question, and sadly, no good responses came out :(, except maybe for Uriage: they already emailed me 3 times telling me they don’t test on animals, but I keep insisting on the Chinese laws. I’m now waiting for their response on whether they just sell online in China or if they sell there physically. Fingers crossed!
    Since I’m on the subject, do you know the status of that company?

    Also, can you please tell me a few good, known brands that are cruelty-free and that you know of?

    Thank you very much!

    • Penny Alford
      September 16, 2016

      Hi Ana,
      A good way to find Cruelty free brands is on the Choose Cruelty free website. http://www.choosecrueltyfree.org.au/cruelty-free-list/
      I manufacture vegan, Certified cruelty free skincare products and only sell in Australia. I’ve been creating since 1989 and am passionate about ensuring every ingredient is cruelty free including absolutely palm oil free products.
      We are passionate manufacturers and we are out there! <3

  • Kira
    July 5, 2016

    Hello Vicky, i hope you are reading this.
    I am kind of new to this whole thinking of cruelty-free (since i always kind of thought.. such a thing like testing on animals wouldnt be on this world anymore.. but yeah, i was naive) however.. i really have a question to you. and hope you might can answer it.
    It is about moroccanoil.com
    They sell to china now. they sell to ten hairdressers and spas. -> http://www.moroccanoil.com/ca_en/salon-spa-locator
    what does that mean for that? are they cruelty-free?
    since i believe these stores have their products via online-stores? and as i read.. they dont test then?
    or am i wrong?
    how can i find out?
    I nearly searched everything. and i dont believe im getting a really satisfying answer either from their website.
    still. i am super in love with their products but want to make it sure.. before i am using them again.

    sorry btw for my bad english. i am from germany.

    • Vicky Ly
      July 5, 2016

      Hey Kira!
      Glad to hear that you’re switching over to cruelty-free products! =) I know, it’s 2016 and some companies are still testing on animals! Such a shame.

      I’m happy to hear you’re asking all the right questions too! I haven’t done much research on Moroccan Oil yet but there have been rumors circulating online that they are indeed selling their products in mainland China.

      The best way to get a solid answer is to email them and ask if any of their products are sold in mainland China. I have a feeling that those 10 hairdressers and spas you mentioned ARE selling Moroccan Oil products and not just online but I don’t know for certain unless they admit it.

      I’ll send them an email right now and see what they’ll say! I’ll follow up with you once I hear back! =)

    • Vicky Ly
      July 5, 2016

      Hi again Kira, they surprisingly got back to me quickly.

      This is what they said after I asked whether if Moroccan Oil products are sold in mainland China where animal testing is required:

      “As we are just beginning to enter the international market, we currently do not have distribution in China at this time; therefore you will not be able to purchase our products.”

      It sounds like they’re gearing up to sell their products in China. It’s not clear whether or not they’ll be exclusively selling via online retailers. They also didn’t address the issues of China’s animal testing requirements. To me, it doesn’t sound like they care about the issues of testing their products on animals in order to sell in China so sadly, I wouldn’t consider Moroccan Oil to be a cruelty-free brand.

      I would recommend trying cruelty-free haircare brands like John Masters Organic, Giovanni, Paul Mitchell, Yarok instead =)

      • Kira
        July 7, 2016

        Oh wow, thank you so so much for your fast answer! <3
        Sadly i wasnt on the internet yesterday.
        I am so thankful that you already contacted them and asked for that. But somehow sad that they gave this answer… however. thank you so so much for your help!
        I really hope they change their mind some day. But till now i will definally try some of the brands you mentioned!
        (My hair is really sensitive. So i hope the best :D)

        Also i am trying to look around your blog now to change my products time by time (when theyre empty) to get the right things and finally be able to support cruelty-free.
        This might be a dumb question too… but everything which is a vegan product should be cruelty-free, right?
        Would be a little weird if its not..

        Also again.. cant say it enough, thank you!

        • Vicky Ly
          July 7, 2016

          I was also disappointed to hear that response from Moroccan Oil too! I really do hope they step it up and if they enter the Chinese market, that they’ll address the issues of animal testing sooner rather than later!

          Yes, on ethical elephant.. when I mention something is vegan, I mean that it’s also cruelty-free =) BUT I can’t say the same about other websites or even companies when they use the term “vegan” to describe their products.

          Sometimes vegan doesn’t automatically mean it’s cruelty-free. (I know, seems a little strange!) but I go into that a little more in this post here: http://ethicalelephant.com/crueltyfree-vs-vegan/

          Hope that helps ya out, Kira! =)

  • David Airey
    June 22, 2016

    Thanks for the post, Vicky. You’re probably unaware, but the Google ad in your sidebar is showing an Estee Lauder product, and according to PETA that company currently tests on animals.

    • Vicky Ly
      June 22, 2016

      Arghs, I know! It drives me crazy, been trying to find a way to prevent them from showing up on my blog! =( Thanks for the heads up, David!

  • meme
    April 23, 2016

    does anyone know where benefit cosmetics lies on this? Their animal testing policy is extremely confusing!

    • Tamsin
      May 3, 2016

      They don’t test on animals. I think the reason they don’t get the bunny logo is because they sell in china, where their products are tested on animals (not by them) :s

    • Renee
      May 19, 2016

      They test on animals. Their products are available in stores in mainland China.

  • Jemma
    April 18, 2016

    Can I ask if “China” pertains to a certain area, or is it anywhere in China?

    • Vicky Ly
      April 18, 2016

      For the most part, when referring to China’s animal testing laws.. it’s generally speaking for the entire country BUT with the exception of Hong Kong which is shown on the infographic where cosmetics imported and sold within Hong Kong are NOT required to be tested on animals.

      Hope I was able to clear that up for you!

      • Ash C
        April 10, 2017

        Thank you for the information! The infographic is great and very helpful. I wanted to make a note that it might be worthwhile to note that Hong Kong is not part of China (it’s a sovereign state, which is why the China law does not apply). While it’s valuable to include the info, because many people are unaware of the separation, it seems like it implies they’re not autonomous. Just a thought, I think its a great infographic and like the site!

  • Sarah
    April 15, 2016

    It’s great to see the updated infographic. I have another suggestion. The line on the left dealing with special use cosmetics made and sold in china should link to the post-market testing box. These products are also subject to post-market testing.

  • Tracy
    April 13, 2016

    This chart above, is it still current, as of today April 13, 2016?
    If it is made in china it requires animal testing? Your chart makes it very clear, but i have a company telling me that this is not the case…
    Thank you for your help…

    • Vicky Ly
      April 14, 2016

      Hiya Tracy!

      Yes, the infographic above still pertains to today’s current animal testing laws in China.

      “special use” cosmetics that are made AND sold in China are still required to be tested on animals. However “ordinary” cosmetics that are made and sold in China are NO longer required to be tested on animals.

      but note that cosmetics (any kind) that are MADE in China but sold ELSEWHERE in the world are NOT required to be tested on animals.

      It only becomes an issue when cosmetics are sold in China.

      The company that you are talking to, you should ask whether if they retail their products in mainland China. If the answer is no, then they do NOT need to be tested on animals as per China’s laws.

      Hope that helps clears things up for ya, Tracy! If you’re still unsure, send me an email at info@ethicalelephant.com

  • Kristina
    October 6, 2015

    SO happy that I just stumbled upon this site. AMAZING references. <3

  • Sarah
    September 19, 2015

    Thank you so much for making this! Makes it so easy to understand

  • gigi
    September 16, 2015

    This is an INCREDIBLE infographic! Thank you so much for all the information!

    • Vicky Ly
      September 18, 2015

      Oh you are SO welcome!! Glad you found it helpful! =)

  • Skeptical
    September 11, 2015

    But what about ‘ethical’ companies knowingly bulk mail ordering through websites to Chinese distributors who then sell in Mainland China stores?

    • Vicky Ly
      September 11, 2015

      Ahh! That’s a great point!! and I wish there were better regulations for these scenarios because I’m sure there are some tricksters who do this! sometimes it’s difficult to tell which companies are selling in China until someone actually sees their products in a physical store. Unfortunately there’s no other way of tracking cases like these =(

  • Lovely Witches
    September 11, 2015

    This is so useful Vicky! It makes the topic so easy to understand at a glance, particular;ly for understanding the info in a visual way 🙂

    • Vicky Ly
      September 11, 2015

      Thanks so much Gemima! and also thanks for linking this page from your site! =) means the absolute world to me! =D

  • Sasha
    September 9, 2015

    Thank you for this post! I’ve heard many different views on animal testing in China – thank you for clearing it up!

    • Vicky Ly
      September 9, 2015

      Glad to help clear things up for ya! =) It gets confusing when companies themselves don’t really understand China’s animal testing requirements and still claim that their products are not tested on animals! Hopefully we’ll see more changes to China’s laws soon!

  • Susan Hughes
    March 29, 2016

    I urge you to change the laws in China. In today’s world it’s not needed. We should use common sense. If it burns your eyes we know not to stick it in our eyes. To use our beautiful gifts from God to abuse that are helpless. I pray for all the suffering. God will have his justice in the end.

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