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New York's anti-cruelty law is threatened by a possible oversight in a federal spending proposal

A stock image of various cosmetics.
Adobe Stock
New York could soon become the 10th state to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals.

New York could soon become the 10th state to ban the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals.

But pending legislation at the federal level may nullify such laws in New York and elsewhere.

The New York Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act recently signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul prohibits the sale of cosmetics that are newly tested on animals. It is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

The law does not apply to products or ingredients that were previously tested on animals, so cosmetics that are already on store shelves will remain there.

"We're not trying to take products off the market," said Victoria Katrinak, director of animal research and testing issues for the Humane Society of the United States. "What we're trying to do is make sure that in the future, no new animal testing for cosmetics needs to happen, and we think this new law is a good way to get to that."

New York's law mirrors existing laws in California, New Jersey, Virginia, and six other states, but it is considered a significant victory for animal rights advocates who are fighting to spare mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs from painful, cruel, and what they consider unnecessary product testing.

"The reputation is sort of the fashion and beauty capital of the world and so it really sends a strong message. The other states are great, too, of course, but New York was sort of our final state that we wanted to take this stand," said Monica Engebretson, the North American campaign director for the animal advocacy organization Cruelty Free International.

But that enthusiasm is somewhat dampened by a provision in a $1.7 trillion federal omnibus appropriations bill released on Monday. It contains a clause that says states cannot continue or enact cosmetic regulations restricting what companies can do to prove their products are safe.

Engebretson believes this would essentially void New York's and every other state's ban on animal testing, but she believes it was an unintentional oversight and not the result of lobbying by the cosmetics industry.

The Personal Care Products Council, which represents 90% of the U.S. cosmetics industry, has supported the elimination of animal testing. The industry has been a leader in developing alternative testing methods to ensure product safety. Aside from consumer pressure to do so, the EU in March 2013 made it illegal to market or sell cosmetics tested on animals.

Numerous companies promote their cruelty-free brands. Cruelty Free International bestows its leaping bunny logo on products that meet those standards.

The proposed Humane Cosmetics Act, which would ban animal-tested cosmetics at the federal level, has wide support in the House of Representatives, which is another reason why Engebretson thinks the omnibus provision was a mistake and not a means to thwart state law.

"We don't believe it was a malicious effort," she said. "But it's hard to say, also, how could this be missed when it's an issue that is so important to consumers all across the U.S."

Engebretson said her organization was working to address the perceived oversight. They expect cosmetics companies to comply with state laws until the matter is resolved.

Beyond removing the problematic clause from the appropriations bill, she said her organization prefers to go a step further and include HCA in the federal spending measure. Lawmakers in Washington were racing to pass the appropriations bill before the Christmas break to avoid a partial government shutdown.

A Siena College poll in February said 70% of New Yorkers supported a ban on animal-tested cosmetics.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.