It feels surreal that I’m almost at the end of my first year in my two year jewellery and object design diploma. It’s funny how at the beginning, you’re lulled into a false sense of security and you think to yourself: “Ooooh, 2 years is agesssss. I’ve got alllll the time in the world, lalala.” BOOM. Suddenly I find myself at the halfway mark. :O
For those of you that know me, I love animals. I just love them to bits. Baby animals. Adult animals. Cuddly ones (hello sausage dogs and frenchies!). Usually show me anything with 4 legs and I’ll probably like it. Cute baby animal videos, YES! Cute photos? YESSS!! Gimmeeee, hehe. There’s just something so special about our furry little friends. Their ecstatic expressions when you arrive home after not seeing you for the whole day, the way they wag their tails (dogs at least), they way they jump up all over you, lick you, look at you with their adorable guilty puppy dog eyes when they know they’re in trouble… Can you tell I’m a dog person? Arghhhh, *jumps onto instagram to look at cute animal pictures*. Sigh, I instantly feel better :)
Which brings me to the last design project of the year and it’s based on sustainability. On first thoughts, it’s common for people to associate sustainability with just the environment, but I think it’s much more than this and also encompasses social and economic dimensions. Which is why, I chose “animal experimentation in the personal care and beauty industries” as my topic. I always knew that it happened, but wasn’t sure how extensive it was. It was a simple case of out of sight, out of mind.
I started researching and what I discovered was shocking, disgusting and heart breaking. I learned that parent companies such as Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Estee Lauder – the makers of products such as Max Factor, Olay, Febreeze, Pringles, Covergirl, Pantene, Gilette, Dove, Vaseline, Magnum etc etc all test on animals.
Is it estimated that over 115 million animals are used in lab testing each year. Very few countries collect and publish this information, so exact numbers are unknown. For example, in the USA, many animals such as rats, mice, birds, reptiles and fish are not protected under the Federal Animal Welfare Act which means they are excluded from official animal testing figures.
From my research, I learned that to test “new and improved” chemicals:
- Routinely lock up rabbits in neck restraints and drip chemicals onto their eyes to test if it burns. (It does.) The pain is so unbearable for these rabbits, they often break their necks or backs, trying to to escape from the pain.
- Dogs are force fed large amounts of chemicals, but getting it pumped directly into their stomachs to determine “lethal doses” by ingestion
- Mice and Hamsters are forced to inhale chemicals to examine for signs of general illness or specific health hazards such as cancer or birth defects.
- They also test on pregnant animals. They kill the mother and dissect their babies.
I looked around at the personal care products I had around me and compared them to the list that PETA produced, listing which brands/companies do or do not test on animals.
- Clinique? Test on animals.
- Kiehl’s? Test on animals.
- Garnier? Test on animals.
What was I doing, by buying these products I was (in)directly supporting and fuelling these horrendous crimes against animals?!
Luckily, some of these companies have listened and responded to PETA’s campaigning and their customer’s complaints by reducing the number of animals used in experiments for existing products and spending more towards research and development of more sophisticated non-animal methods of testing. Modern non-animal tests using the latest technologies and techniques are often more efficient, more cost effective and more reliable than animal testing. These involve experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals, using computer models and studying human volunteers to name a few.
Although a little progress has been made, humanity is a looong and still far, far way from ending cruel animal testing completely.
Therefore, to bring attention this issue, I have chosen to create and make a series of ear cuffs. I created 3 variations from each material, to form a collection totalling 9 pieces. The key materials I chose were syringes, sewing needles and saw blades.
I chose syringes because they are routinely used to inject test chemicals into an animal’s blood stream or directly into its stomach. Sewing needles were chosen because sometimes body parts need to be amputated or removed, because of the damage the test chemical has caused. Saw blades were chosen as they are used to cut and dissect the animal’s body organs (alive or dead).
Each set of the 3 variations was designed for the viewer and wearer to feel nervous, uncomfortable and fearful. If feelings of unease, fear and pain are evoked within you, just by looking at the ear cuff, how much worse do those animals being tested on and eventually killed feel?
Now that you have a glimpse of what happens in these laboratories, all for the sake of “new and improved” chemicals for personal care and beauty products, you can start making a difference today. Write to Procter and Gamble. Write to Unilever. Write to Estee Lauder. Tell them to stop this cruel testing on animals. Stop buying their products. Support brands that bear a ‘leaping bunny’ logo guaranteeing that they do not test their ingredients or products on animals. You can make a difference. Please stand up and lend your voice for those animals that cannot and make yourself heard.