Review of the Lush Prize Conference 2021

More than 200 people from around the world attended the Lush Prize virtual conference that was held over two days on 24-25th November. This was the first time a conference had been held outside of the biennial prize cycle and provided us with the opportunity to broaden the discussion topics.

The theme, ‘The role of public awareness in the replacement of animals in safety testing’, covered three key areas of public awareness participation: campaigners, regulators and legislators as well as scientists. We heard from experts from Europe, North and South America and Asia with a wide perspective on how to create awareness to replace animal-based research with human-relevant science.

Running the conference online again also gives an opportunity for a global audience – across both days we were joined by participants from across Europe and North America as well as Iran, Russia, Mexico, Chile, India and South Korea. 

Recordings of all of the presentations can be watched on the Lush Prize website.

A fourth panel discussed the ongoing conflict between the REACH (European chemicals) regulation (which demands animal testing despite stating it is a ‘last resort’) and the Cosmetics Regulation, which has banned animal testing of cosmetics and their ingredients since 2013. Dr Julia Fentem of Unilever told the conference: “The future of cruelty-free cosmetics is seriously under threat”.

There is clearly an issue of public trust at stake. As a result of legal conflict (between REACH and the Cosmetics Directive), animals continue to suffer for testing of ingredients which are ultimately used in cosmetics, a practice which the public believes to have stopped. Troy Seidle of Humane Society International commented during his presentation that “we are dealing with a public in Europe who believe that animal testing is a thing of the past”.

Member of the European Parliament Tilly Metz outlined the co-ordinated action that needs to be taken to not only save cruelty-free cosmetics but to also push for more support of non-animal methods of research: “We need the public, the scientists and also the companies to get loud, to get involved, to show that there is really a demand for progress”.

Several speakers referred to an important ongoing initiative – the EU Citizens’ Initiative to Save Cruelty Free cosmetics. This requires 1 million EU citizens to sign it before the deadline of 31 August 2022.

If you are an EU citizen you can add your name to this call by clicking here.

The conference set out to help us better understand the varied actions required to create awareness and action across multiple audiences in this field, in particular the public, scientists, regulators and legislators. We were also pleased to see the high level of interaction from the audience during the question and answer sessions of each panel.

It also provided some challenges for us to take away and act upon. In the first of our fireside chats, Aryenish Birdie of Encompass discussed racial inclusivity in the animal protection movement, an issue that has sadly been neglected for too long but has definitely inspired the Lush Prize Team to consider how we can improve. Aysha Akhtar of the Center for Contemporary Sciences, in her presentation during the science panel, challenged the use of language such as ‘alternatives’ to, and ‘replacement’ of animal research, encouraging instead the use of terms such as human-relevant science.

Feedback from speakers and attendees has so far been positive, with many welcoming the opportunity to hear inspiring experts from around the world and for a conference topic that was more accessible compared to some of our science-based sessions. If you have any feedback please contact us.

In addition to being able to watch all of the panel sessions again, we have put together a list of resources based on the presentations and questions raised by attendees, which you can find by clicking here.