A tough-to-watch, controversy-stirring videotaped event by Lush Cosmetics in the U.K. involved a performance artist undergoing animal laboratory tests in the window of Lush Regent Street London in April to raise awareness of their fight against animal testing in cosmetics.
Jacqueline Traides, 24, spent ten hours in the store window and was subjected to force-feeding, injections, hair shaving and other extreme discomfort while restrained. She later blogged, "It was somewhere after the fourth hour of this live act that I found my self asking the question ‘why exactly am i here?’. I realised then that it was not to Lush, nor to the onlookers but to the beings, animals and humans alike, that endure such suffering without choice."
Intended to shock, thousands of passerby signed the brand's petition on the spot, while the performance was also streamed live on a website where viewers could sign. "I hope it will plant the seed of a new awareness in people to really start thinking about what they go out and buy and what goes into producing it," said Traides.
As a brand whose products are 100% vegetarian, 81% vegan, and 70% preservative-free, its campaign was spurred by this call to action: “When we are forced to recognise that this aspirational industry depends upon the needless suffering and death of millions of innocent animals – animals that could have been our dog, our children’s guinea pigs, our neighbours’ rabbits – animals that we humanely love – we are shocked and we recoil.”
As is human nature, “the stunt has polarized audiences, with some hailing it for finally telling the truth about animal testing, while others have decried it for portraying a victim being brutally assaulted.”
Still others criticized it for being titillating and for brutalizing women, to which Lush responded, “The bodysuit was not attractive (regardless of how the mainstream media may have presented or written about it). The costume made her an anonymous test subject and stripped her of the accoutrements of sexuality or eroticism. We are sorry if this has hurt women who have suffered sexual violence or assault.
A Guardian writer commented, “knowing the careful thought Lush and the performance artists gave to every moment of this, I will ferociously argue for its intended goal: to challenge public apathy, which always encourages powerful forces to oppress the less powerful, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or species.”
Lush's campaign is part of a larger global outcry against animal testing by cosmetics brands, including activists such as the International Humane Society and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the U.S. Back in February, Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay were criticized for complying with a Chinese government requirement to test on animals in order to distribute their products.
Lush is also making headlines for a recent ad claiming that reptile trading was driving the species to extinction, a claim that was ruled against by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as false advertising.
One complaint against the ad from a reptile store employee, according to Brand Republic: "Most wild-caught reptiles die within their first year of captivity" and that the ad was misleading and could not be substantiated.
Another challenged the veracity of the ad’s text: "six millions reptiles were imported into the EU last year and almost 200,000 reptiles arrived in Britain from countries outside of the EU. These figures only show recorded trade. The true scale is actually much larger and is driving many species towards extinction."
Lush and the Animal Protection Agency (APA) defended their sales promotion as part of a larger campaign about animal rights and welfare, thus not within ASA’s jurisdiction and the ruling was an infringement on free speech. But the ASA prevailed and ruled the ad could not be run again.
Thoughts on Lush's stance and actions around animal testing and cruelty free products? Share your thoughts in the comments below.