Lush’s window display at their Regent Street store in London’s West End was a scene shoppers and passersby were not quite prepared for as they set out to enjoy a day of shopping this past April.
In a pioneering step towards the elimination of animal testing, Lush collaborated with artist Jacqueline Traide to form a disturbing display of what animals go through in different cosmetics labs.
Jacqueline was dragged across the floor, had her mouth stretched open with hooks, was force-fed, had ‘scientists’ give her injections, had her hair shaved off, and had products tested on her skin and in her eyes as shoppers witnessed at the scene terrified and shocked, all for the purpose of raising awareness against animal testing.
As soon as I heard about the Lush campaign I felt another conscious, ethical movement being born and after seeing the company’s performance art video of what animal testing involves, which uses a human subject and brings home the harrowing facts, I had to speak to the people behind it (See video on the right. Warning: contains graphic content).
I became vegan over 9 years ago at a time when there were few vegan and non-animal tested cosmetics available on the market. So when I came across Lush, which was a young company and not a household or global name at the time, I knew it was a turning point for animal-conscious individuals like me, and also a pivotal step in the way others viewed my lifestyle choice.
Suddenly I had a powerful ally in the cosmetics world, and a community surrounding animal ethics came into being. In a single decade Lush has grown to having 100 shop fronts in Britain and a further 500 worldwide, so clearly others felt the same as I did when they discovered this pioneering company.
My search for those behind the Regent St store campaign led me to Hilary Jones, Lush’s Ethics Director. Hilary began work with Lush when it was only a month old, so she has been with Lush for what she calls the ‘crazy journey from one small shop in Poole, Dorset, to the worldwide presence we are today’, and she has a thorough understanding of the vegan movement due to becoming vegetarian in the 60s and 70s – ‘when vegetarianism was a new and suspicious-raising concept’, and a hands-on activist vegan in the 1980s.
Two events conspired to trigger the change in Hilary’s eating habits – witnessing Hare Coursing as a young child, and discovering that the caretaker at her school was also into animal rights. He kindly shared his Animal Aid magazines with her, and ‘from reading those’, Hilary says, ‘there was no looking back.’
Over time animal rights became a central theme in Hilary’s life, and it’s an issue that Lush has always been attentive to, from boycotting animal-tested products and companies and using only the ethically-purest of ingredients in their products, to raising awareness of what the testing process involves. Lush’s fight against animal testing has pushed this final point to the forefront of debate for vegans and non-vegans worldwide to coincide with the imminent deadline for the Cosmetics Directive. The Directive was initially seen as a victory won by a conscious body of the general public who voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals. However, Hilary explains that ‘the legislation has suffered delay upon delay and animals still have not got the full protection we were all promised’, which most people today are not aware of. The danger is that the Directive will yet again be granted a delay of implementation, ‘thanks’, Hilary says, ‘to the nastier side of [the cosmetics] industry.’
Although the legislation was passed two decades ago, there will likely be another 10 year delay before it is actually implemented. Hilary calls this a ‘disgrace’, and voices the company’s concern that attention needs to be drawn to this area, in order to save millions of animals from needless suffering. Hilary believes that, used correctly, Lush’s popularity can be a powerful advertising tool for good. She says, ‘The Humane Society International have done great work over the years tracking progress of the Cosmetics Directive and lobbying – so we wanted to let our customers know and give them the chance to sign their petition and maximise the signatures they have to hand in to the European Commission before they make this next decision.’
A vegetarian company with vegan tendencies
Although Lush is a vegetarian company with vegetarian beliefs and sensibilities, they ensure that the majority of their products are also suitable for us vegans, our needs and our beliefs. For me personally, they have been a beacon of light in what has in the past felt like a quagmire of ingredients-scouring, ethics-researching, company-questioning, and endless boycotting. In addition, Lush products do not use any animal fat, and between 70 to 80% of their product range is vegan at any given time. Their vegan products include soaps, bath bombs, toothpastes, perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, styling gels, massage bars, body butters, deodorants, shaving creams, face masks, lip balms, and shower gels, and are clearly marked as suitable for vegans by The Vegan Society logo. They make fantastic gifts for friends and family members, as in my experience they are received as welcome and decadent presents by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Lush tries to take its ethics as far as possible. The company sources as many organic, fair trade and ethical ingredients as possible, and has developed its own alternative to palm oil in order to avoid the environmentally destructive ingredient altogether. The company supports sustainable, permaculture-based practices wherever possible, and has a fund to help growers and communities switch to ethically-sound practices. Lush is an evolving company due to the dialogue it encourages at its HQ and beyond – Hilary comments that ‘the diversity of opinion and lively debate here all make for a healthy company, [and] being against animal testing runs deep in this company.’
Some people think that Lush’s campaign to end animal testing has gone too far, but there is no doubt it is in true keeping with the animal rights movement worldwide, and personally I’m in awe of their strong ethical stance regarding this campaign, as well as Hilary’s determination and energy. In addition to its ethics and the use of that video, the company produces beautiful, practical, fragrant and simply lush products for our daily routines, to help us all support positive vegan choices in the consumer world. To put it in company co-founder Mark Constantine’s words, ‘If you can please a vegan, you can please anyone’- and this vegan writer is certainly very pleased, though we do hope to see Lush going 100% vegan one day.
Thank you to Gina and Hilary of Lush for your time and energy. Readers can join Lush’s fight against animal testing by signing the petition here. Lush’s website can be found at www.lush.co.uk and www.lush.com