Recently a reader emailed me about some brands that they had seen while passing through the Shanghai airport in China. One of them was The Body Shop. While The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal, they run independently and claim to still be cruelty free. Since animal testing is required by law on products sold in China, I had to wonder how The Body Shop was able to sell there and still be supported by organizations such as Cruelty Free International.
I reached out to several major organizations and did some research of my own. The investigations team at PETA was extremely helpful in assisting me. They did some additional digging and let me know the following -
I am happy to let you know that products sold in China in airport locations only are not subject to the government’s requirements for tests on animals for cosmetics, and so sales at these airport shop locations do not compromise cruelty-free status.
It appears that they are allowed to be sold in the duty-free sections of international airports. Duty-free sections are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties. They contain products that are meant to be sold only to travelers passing through the airports that will be taking these products out of the country.
For those looking to avoid brands who test on animals, this knowledge may help you make better informed decisions about which brands you support.
Update on March 11, 2014: Unfortunately, it looks as though the items sold in airports in China may be subjected to animal testing after all. The Body Shop has temporarily pulled items from duty free airport shops in China. Read more - The Body Shop Temporarily Pulls Products from Chinese Airports Due to Conflicting Statements on Animal Testing.