Dita De Boni 's Opinion

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Shooting from the lippy

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Consumers have the ammunition to stop cosmetics from being tested on animals.

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

When I was a little girl I desperately wanted to be like my friends. And by that I mean I wanted to wear Mary Jane shoes, have long, sleek, shiny auburn hair I could put bobbles in, and take part in jazz ballet classes on a Tuesday evening. Just like they did.

Unfortunately my life was different, in so many respects. I was tormented by the enforced wearing of roman sandals and skivvies, for one thing. My hair was murky blonde and impervious to any style other than the "Janet Frame". And I took gymnastics until adolescence rendered me chubby and heffalumpish.

I was most gutted by the fact that I could not have a horse. Economics, and the fact we lived on a small section, decreed my horselessness, but there was another reason: I was absolutely, stunningly allergic to the beasts. To even look at a horse meant my face and airway would swell dangerously. Cat hair was almost worse. A single cat's paw on my cheek overnight would have seen me on life-support the next day.

I never did warm to animals after my girlish horse fantasies faded, although invariably as a parent of young children I'm dragged to all manner of animal-based attraction.

I swear if I have to suffer through one more session of monkeys heavy petting, or goats coating our pellet-bearing fingers in rancid saliva, I shall turn into a ranting baboon myself (my husband thinks I'm half-way there already).

But even if mewling kittens don't immediately set my cute receptors quivering, one thing I cannot abide is any kind of cruelty to animals. Like most women, though, I have over the years slathered myself with products that have been dropped into rabbits' eyes and rubbed into rat's fur, and for that I feel heartily ashamed.

There's no real excuse for this any more. These days, a quick visit to peta.org is all that's required to check that a product range is "cruelty free" - that is, that no component of a cosmetic product has been tested on animals. It used to be that only products made by bona fide granola munchers made it anywhere near the list; these days, some of what I reckon to be the best, most efficacious brands are there.

But disturbingly, it seems some of the world's largest cosmetics companies have twigged to the fact that women like myself want to feel virtuous by buying so-called cruelty-free cosmetics - without being able to confirm that claim.

A class-action suit filed against Avon, Mary Kay and Estee Lauder in the US charges these companies with resuming animal testing in China after several decades without doing so.

The companies say they have no choice because extra testing on animals is required by the Chinese; critics say the companies should not have given in to China's demands.

I revisited my cosmetics case in the wake of the news and realised that a principled stand meant many of the brands I had chosen for their upstanding social qualities - MAC, Clinique and Bobbi Brown, for example - would have to go until such time as their owner, Estee Lauder, makes it back into Peta's good books.

Now I may not like them much, and pretty much all they do for me is send me to A&E, but I reckon that I'll try to do my part for animals by trying to keep my cosmetics case genuinely "cruelty free". It's the most effective thing a modern consumer can do. Not only that, but one small step by all of us cosmetics users could be one giant leap for animalkind.

* List of companies that do test on animals found here.

* List of companies that don't test on animals found here.

* Illustration by Anna Crichton: illustrator@annacrichton.com

- NZ Herald

Dita De Boni

Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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