Urban Decay, China, and their Stance on Animal Testing

*Update as of 6/8/12: They have now proceeded to remove the press release I have referenced below in favor of this regarding their company and China. This of course mentions NOTHING about how their products may be tested on animals in the country.

urban decay and china
If you want to look up their animal testing policy, this is what you'll see. Note how they stress that THEY as a company do not test on animals and how they say they won't let others do so unless required by law meaning China can do it but we're being vague.

animal testing
On their website, the PETA and Leaping Bunny Symbol have been removed to reflect their change in stance. I truly don't believe that because Urban Decay isn't doing the testing, they're absolved of the guilt. It really doesn't matter who is doing what, just that Urban Decay is putting their products up for the possibility of being tested and that completely goes against their former stance of "We don't do animal testing...how could anyone?

I don't use all cruelty free products and I know it, but I'm especially disappointed and annoyed at Urban Decay for their greedy change of stance and the fact that they're trying to do a PR spin on consumers as if we're ignorant and don't really see what's going on. I won't stop using the Urban Decay I've got, but I'm certainly considering not purchasing anymore

Though I don't agree with all the organizations that LUSH collaborates with, I can give them props for their position on expanding on China. Do read My Beauty Bunny's post with the excerpt of LUSH's position.*

Though I know that this will just be adding to the multitude of blog posts on the topic (Do check out Phyrra's thoughts!), I still wanted to add in my two cents on the matter.

Urban Decay just posted a release on their change of stance on animal testing in regards to China and I've included it below for your convenience.

"Urban Decay is going to sell our products in China. Because of China’s policies on animal testing, we know that this will not be a popular decision with some of our loyal customers. But the decision is a thoughtful one.

For 16 years, we have been committed to two key causes: women’s rights, and the fight against animal testing. Our dedication to those causes will not waver.

For those of you unfamiliar with China’s policies, the sticking point is this: the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. The government has not told us if they have exercised this right with our products. So, our brand does not test on animals, but the Chinese government might conduct a one-time test using our products. Do we like China’s policies? No…and that is really the point. Going into China was a huge decision for Urban Decay. But, we believe that change cannot and will not happen by outside pressure alone in a closed market. Change can only happen from within. When we enter the Chinese market, we will do our part to help make those changes.

When we were considering expanding into China, a group of marketing consultants told us to remove the section of our company history that describes our crusade against animal testing. “It doesn’t mean anything to the Chinese beauty customer,” they said. Of course, we refused. Our “no animal testing” policy is part of who we are, and has been since day one. The news that animal issues don’t even register with the average Chinese consumer was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go there. During Urban Decay’s infancy, we worked hard to inform consumers about animal rights in the United States and Europe. The battleground for animal rights is now in China, and we want to be there to encourage dialogue and provoke change.

We also hope to shed some light on women’s rights issues in China. As a company that caters to a female customer, this is extremely important to us. For one thing, going into China is a way for us to advance women into important professional positions. We will help grow the cosmetics industry, which primarily employs and creates career paths for women. Although workers’ employment rights are a relatively new concept there, progress has been made partially because of pressure from businesses, consumers, and advocacy groups from other countries. Based on this, our belief is that both an outside force and inside pressure for change can result in helping transform both the importance of women and animal testing policies in China. And more importantly, we hope to influence the perspective of the citizens on both of these issues.

If we don’t go to China, other companies without our beliefs will, and the culture will never change. We want to encourage a culture of consumers who care enough to buy cruelty-free products, and who view professional women as role models who influence their lives on a daily basis.

Yes, we are a for-profit company. And yes, we would eventually like to make money in China. But we don’t stand to turn a profit in China for quite a while, partially because the market isn’t quite ready to sustain an untraditional brand like ours. If it were only about the money, we would wait a few years. But our foray into this market is also about participating in an amazing time of change in China. We don’t like animal testing (and neither do the 13 dogs in our office), but we are trying to change the world… even if it is one eye shadow at a time! Sitting on the sidelines isn’t our style. We understand that you might not like our decision, but we hope you can respect it.

For any advocates or Urban Decay fans interested, Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir will host a live chat on urbandecay.com to answer questions about our entry into China"

Now I wouldn't consider myself the bastion of good morals on the issue of animal testing because I do use cosmetics from some brands whose mother company conducts animal testing but still though, I find myself really disappointed in their change of stance because I always thought Urban Decay would stick to their guns on the topic and never do animal testing (even if it's being done by proxy in China). I could easily be seen as too cynical on the topic but there's just a part of me that can't exactly believe all that they're saying. I really would like to have faith that Urban Decay are doing it to improve women and animal rights in the country, but I think there are other ways and means to do it.

I feel like they (and other companies) could have exerted pressure on China and other companies within China because they already produce the cosmetics there.I think that since they already manufacture there, isn't it completely possible to negotiate for better salaries and welfare for the employees working in their factories (similar to the way LUSH tries to) and to maintain constant upkeep on that? It sounds way too much of white knight move to say "if we don't go to China, other companies will and the culture will never change" because Urban Decay is already in China, producing and manufacturing their cosmetics! It reeks of colonialism and essentially insulting the Chinese "because they need education" certainly won't accomplish their goals. If numerous human and civil rights groups, NGOs, political pressure etc hasn't brought about drastic change over YEARS of work, how is it that Urban Decay will?

I think I'm just too skeptical of the move. I really would like to know what they are currently doing with improving women's rights in the factories in China that they use. I'm copying and pasting the comment I wrote on Temptalia's post on the press release but I do wonder why not form a coalition with other cosmetics companies to negotiate a pull out of their manufacturing unless the mandate was changed? I do feel like there could have been other alternatives to this. Their release just speaks of PR smoothing over and I don't know if I believe what they're saying.

Added: I had a nice chat with Alyson of Gloss Menagerie and we talked about the question of what their end goal has to be. I mean if they aren't going to make a profit for some time, they aren't necessarily a company that would appeal to the Chinese market, AND they're alienating MANY of their customers, they better have one damn good reason and there's a part of me that doesn't believe it's just to improve women's rights and animal rights in general. Are they intending on trying to end animal testing in China? If so, their statement does reek of colonialism and trying to "educate" the uneducated in China on the issue and I feel skeptical that this attitude will go over well with the Chinese.

What are your thoughts on the change?


  1. I am also a little disappointed, even though I shop with MAC I do try my hardest to keep to animal friendly companies and Urban Decay was one I had a lot of faith in! I really do hope they are doing it for the reasons they state but they are, after all, a business.

    1. It's so sad that companies are choosing to make moves like this that alienate so many of their customers. It almost seems like putting faith in a company might almost set consumers up for disappointment.

    2. That states it right there: "putting faith in a company might almost set consumers up for disappointment." That's 1000% spot on.

      Companies - even indie one-man-band companies - are not people. Companies are run by people, but they don't have the exact same motivations as an individual.

      Companies, social groups, churches, temples, governments...all are concerned with the survival and prosperity of the larger entity. The prosperity and even the survival of the individual is problematic - and something best left to the individual.

      People should make their choices based on their own personal needs, wants, goals, and standards. But feeling betrayed by a decision a company makes? Any time you hitch your personal worth to anything that a company does (a company you buy from, the company you work for, whatever) you're bucking for disappointment and pain. Companies are playing the long game: long-term sales, long-term market share, even long-term goals for influencing societal change...which will, ideally, provide even more market share and sales for said company.

      tl;dr summary: don't put your faith in groups. Put your faith in ideals that you have, in individuals that you know. Live your ideals. And realize that while we can all be the change we want to see in the world, most of the changes we want aren't going to be instantaneous - but will instead be measured in human generations (or, at the very least, decades.)

  2. I also felt disappointed and even betrayed when I first read the news on Temptalia. This, after UD making themselves out to be huge cruelty free advocates! UD's statement in my opinion sounds like so many fluffy lies and excuses. "If we don’t go to China, other companies without our beliefs will"?? Right, right. >_> I think you're 100% right in saying if UD *really* cared about animal&women's rights, there are other ways they could have gone about it without bowing to China's animal testing law. I'm guessing UD is choosing to launch in China (apparently the only place animal testing is required by law) rather than in places like Australia or Korea where there are a lot of UD fans, just because of the sheer market size & profit potential in China... I will continue hoping that UD's statement is true and that they'll do all the good things they say they'll do in China, but I can't help but be -very- cynical right now.

    1. You make a good point about how they are choosing not to go to areas that would really love their business, but instead are choosing to go to China and to open themselves up to having their cosmetics tested there!

  3. agree with the above fully, and also, thank you for making this post. i haven't heard a lot from urban decay as far as actual statements go, but i'm pretty skeptical about what they came up with. i appreciate your view on the matter, and as one who tries to buy beauty products from cruelty-free companies, i appreciate the information.
    thanks again!

  4. I agree with your stance. I'm gonna copy & paste a portion of a conversation I was having regarding it to here:

    "My personal opinion is they are going there for profit and simply sugar-coating it by making an overly-righteous claim that their presence will make a difference in China ... I see it as UD profiting upon the very thing they say they are against, which makes them lose credibility in my mind."

    And again: "It causes me to lose respect for a company who seemed so adamant against animal cruelty. The desire for money, once again, seems to overcome the desire to treat animals humanely. They make a profit, but at what cost?

    MAC's choice to test on animals is why I am looking for replacements for my fav products & colors from them. I guess I will be doing the same for UD now."

    So yeah... I have a lot of skepticism regarding what kind of good they can accomplish in China, seeing as they are not practicing what they preach.

  5. Thank you for linking to me for my thoughts on the subject. One thing D and I talked about tonight regarding this is:
    In the USA you make change happen through appealing to the people.
    In China you make change happen by showing the government how it is profitable for them.

    I think Americans don't realize that China is controlled by a very strict government. They make all the decisions. The people do not have the power. So really, companies need to appeal to their government for change.

  6. Well, I'm very skeptical about it and I have no desire to purchase from UD anymore. The 'if we don't go, others will, and the culture will never change' really bugs me.

    What bothers me even more, is that the statement you posted, is no longer on the UD's website. Only this: http://www.urbandecay.com/Urban-Decay-China/Urban-Decay-in-China,default,pg.html

  7. I'm extremely disappointed in UD. I too don't always buy animal friendly products, but having UD boast about being animal friendly and vegan and then doing this and pretending like it's a good thing is just hypocritical. It made me so upset. I will no longer purchase anything from UD, their press release just assumes that their customer is not intelligent and is rather insulting. Saying that you truly believe in something and then selling out like that is disheartening.

    As for the whole "we're not planning to make a profit for quiet some time," that's just a standard business plan for a company breaking into a new market (unless they are a huge brand like Macintosh). UD stands to make a profit in 12-18 months and there's nothing unusual about that.

    Their whole "educate the consumer" spiel is laughable too. How do you see this happening? "Hi, these products have been tested on animals. It's an awful and gruesome process, were totally against it and you should be as well. Ok, please buy these now." o_O*? And the government won't really care, even if that does somehow work on the consumer.


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