Virginia Passes Act Banning Animal Testing for Cosmetics

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Mar. 16 2021, Published 1:52 p.m. ET

Virginia Bans Animal Testing
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Virginia is going cruelty-free.

Becoming the fourth state to do so, Virginia just banned cosmetics animal testing across the state, as well as the sale of cosmetics that were tested on animals. 

The Humane Society of the U.S. shared the exciting news in March 2021, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed off on two bills banning these cruel animal practices.

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The two identical bills were part of Virginia’s Humane Cosmetics Act. House Bill 2250 was sponsored by Delegate Kaye Kory, while Senate Bill 1379 was sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko. After the bills passed in the House and the Senate, Gov. Northam signed them into law in mid-March, and the act will officially take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

virginia bans animal testing makeup
Source: Getty Images
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Specifically, the Humane Cosmetics Act prohibits Virginia-based cosmetics companies from conducting or contracting cosmetic animal testing on or after Jan. 1, 2022, and from producing or importing cosmetics (or cosmetic ingredients) that were created using animal testing after Jan. 1, 2022. And beginning July 1, 2022, Virginia retailers are also prohibited from selling any cosmetic that was tested on animals (or that includes ingredients tested on animals) on or after January 1, 2022.

Those caught violating any of these rules could be fined up to $5,000, plus another $1,000 for each additional day they continue to sell the products.

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“We congratulate Virginia lawmakers including the primary bill sponsors, Sen. Jennifer Boysko and Del. Kaye Kory, as well as the residents of Virginia, for taking this compassionate step. And we thank Gov. Northam for signing this bill into law,” the Humane Society of the U.S.’s Kitty Block and Sara Amundson said in a statement. “We now urge other states to follow suit by working swiftly to end cosmetics animal testing and sales of animal-tested cosmetics on their soil at the earliest.”

According to the Humane Society of the U.S., California, Nevada, and Illinois all passed similar laws over the past three years. Six others — Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island — are working on similar acts that would end animal testing for cosmetics in their states. 

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What’s unclear is whether Virginia retailers will be able to sell cosmetics that were tested on animals outside of the state or country come 2022. For instance, many major cosmetic companies only conduct animal testing “where required by law” — which refers to China, the only country that requires animal testing for cosmetics. Any company that sells in China therefore cannot be cruelty-free. 

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Interestingly, the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act includes several exemptions, including one that allows brands like these to continue being sold in the state.

It seems likely that Virginia's act will include similar exemptions, as it's unlikely that the entire state of Virginia would prohibit retailers from selling major brands that conduct animal testing, such as Aveeno, Benefit, Clinique, L’Oreal, Jergens, NARS, Neutrogena, and Pantene. 

Virginia’s Humane Cosmetics Act doesn’t go into effect for nine more months, giving non-cruelty-free brands plenty of time to pledge to stop animal testing. As more and more American states enact laws like Virginia’s, and as many more major cosmetics brands go cruelty-free, there may soon be a day in which it makes more financial (and ethical) sense for big brands to pull out of the China market and quit animal testing.

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