In an era of malcontent, protest and counter-protest the city of London saw one of the year’s smallest yet most controversial demonstrations last week.
On Tuesday 8 May 2012 24 year-old performance artist Jacqueline Traide was dragged into a shop window by a man in a white suit. She was attached to a leash and kitted out in a skin-coloured body suit.
This wasn’t in Soho and it wasn’t some kinky attempt at titillating passers-by into a massage parlour however. This was on Regent Street and an attempt to raise public awareness about animal testing and reduce the apathy that has for the most part seen only special interest groups be actively involved in challenging it.
Part-way between a protest and performance art, the actress played the part of an animal, replaced by a human, who was subject to testing for the cosmetics industry. All the techniques on display were real representations of practice although for obvious reasons no real harm was caused to the actress. Subjected to force-feeding, saline injections and irritancy tests the 10-hour live ‘test’ was designed to shock people into action.
The shop responsible for this was Lush, a business no stranger to protest. In the past the chain of shops has directed and advised staff on the corporation’s latest protest and encouraged them to publicise it in their local branches. Lush in York has previously demonstrated about immigration restrictions where all staff handed out fake passports on Coney Street, and against fox-hunting where staff dressed as foxes and handed out leaflets in support of the Hunt Saboteurs.
A self-proclaimed socially responsible enterprise, Lush has been brave as a multi-national company to marginalise itself from many potential consumers by aligning with a number of minority radical groups and movements, and has been no stranger to criticism as a result.
Notwithstanding previous efforts this is perhaps the cosmetic shop’s most daring stunt yet, and aside from the commentaries about the role of women as marketing tools and submissive slaves (which arguably is far from the point in question), the debate has once again been reinvigorated via international and local media as to the role of animals in laboratory testing.
As ever the debate is a mixed-bag of opinions. There are those who argue that there is no place for multi-national corporations to test their cosmetic products on defenseless animals who suffer at the hands of human vanity, and there are those who support it as a viable alternative to horrendous potential effects on humans who use un-tested products. There are even those who criticise Lush’s own practice arguing that they can at times themselves be unethical and profit-focussed, and may be point-scoring against their nearest competitor The Body Shop.
Interestingly the EU banned the testing of cosmetics and cosmetic products on animals in 1993 but the final piece of legislation, that of banning the sale of any animal tested goods outright, still remains un-passed leaving European companies free to order their testing to be done outside the EU. Fighting Animal Testing, the campaign backed by Lush in this demonstration, aims to pressure law-makers into passing this final piece of statute.
An important point to note at this stage is that this campaign is specifically about cosmetic testing not medicinal testing, and whilst some justification could be made for the trialling of medicines on animals, the argument is harder to win when it comes to moisturisers and make-up.
We may all recall the ill-fated medical experiment of 2006 where six ‘human guinea pigs’ almost died when their bodies reacted violently to an anti-inflammatory drug that ironically had the reverse affect, and we may be aware that Nazi Germany ordered similar testing to take place on Jews. There are those who argue that this lends some credence to animal testing, but on the other side of the metaphorical coin there are those opposed to all animal testing entirely by arguing that cruelty against defenseless animals can never be justified. There are also those who haven’t tossed the metaphorical coin but sit on the proverbial fence in saying that animal testing is a necessary evil, or at best the lesser of two evils.
Why not join the debate here on One&Other and have you say on the matter.