At the time of writing it’s mid-January, which means we’re in the thick of the movement that has become synonymous with this time of year in the UK – Veganuary. That’s right, the movement that started five years ago is still going strong, in fact, according to the Guardian, 2019 has already seen record-breaking sign up numbers. If that’s not an indication that the vegan movement is going full pelt, I don’t know what is.
Having done Veganuary myself last year, I am one of the success stories – I’ve never looked back. And as such, am now that token vegan friend that everyone heads to for any plant-based living advice. Passionate about a cruelty-free lifestyle, I am always all-too happy to oblige. Dishing out advice left and right, I can assist on dairy-free milk, the most ethical clothing brands, the best vegan recipe books no problem. The sticking point is when the conversation inevitably turns to cosmetics, with questions such as, ‘But Estee Lauder doesn’t test on animals or contain animal products, so it must be vegan right?’. Wrong. And so starts the China conversation.
Even for me, an established business beauty journalist, I have to take a deep breath to explain the red tape that means that any brand wanting to sell its wares in Chinese stores – and being the second biggest beauty and care market globally, who wouldn’t? – has to allow the possibility that their products will be tested on animals. The inevitable friend response being, “But if the rest of the world can ban it and thrive, why can’t China?” Well, indeed.
It’s at this point I inevitably rattle off the list of the many many brands that have succumbed to the lure of China’s profitable market – placing revenue over ethics – and as such can’t be placed on the Veganuary beauty purchase list. Of course, there are loopholes such as companies using daigou as a way around the laws, or like Miranda Kerr and her Kora Organics range who, as highlighted by WWD.com, bypass the framework by selling direct to consumers online (the law only applies to products physically retailed within China). However, both routes are not without their challenges, and are extremely convoluted and difficult to navigate.
However, consumers wanting to continue using their favourite brands without compromising on their ethics shouldn’t despair just yet. Indeed, there were murmurings of positive changes last year – Cruelty Free International announced a collaborative project that would potentially enable cruelty free cosmetics companies to sell in China. Likewise, according to a report by South China Morning Post, China’s National Institute for Food and Drug Control (NIFDC) issued a statement outlining its commitment to overhaul animal testing within the country and investigate alternatives commonly used in other countries.
There are clearly positive steps being taken towards the loosening of China’s strict laws, and with movements such as Veganuary and the sky-rocketing amount of vegan consumers worldwide, it’s surely only a matter of time before China abolishes such an archaic practice? Let’s hope that 2019 is the year of change for the country.