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Are your cosmetics cruelty-free? Powerful animated short film shows suffering of lab animals

By Tanya Lara Published Apr 13, 2021 5:55 pm Updated Apr 13, 2021 6:24 pm

About half a million animals are used to test cosmetics each year. This means that as you go about your day, 1,369 animals like rabbits have chemicals rubbed on their shaved skin or dripped into their eyes.

If you have a dog or cat (or children) in your life, let that sink in for a second. Chemicals dripped into their eyes every day.

Even though 40 countries, including the Philippines, have banned animal testing in the manufacture of cosmetics, it’s still perfectly legal in close to 200.

And your precious high-end cosmetics? They’re probably not humanely or ethically made, but there are more than 2,000 cruelty-free beauty brands available worldwide. (Check if your favorite brands are still tested on animals here and here—you’ll be shocked at the names on these lists!)

According to Aduane Joseph Alcantara, HSI campaign manager for ASEAN, “An Ipsos poll commissioned by the Humane Society International (HSI) found that 93% of people in the Philippines and an average of 87% of citizens across the ASEAN region, support a ban on animal testing for cosmetics.”

Sweet rabbit Ralph with his right eye blind from animal testing procedures. 
He has chemical burns on his back too, he says, getting ready for “work.” “But it’s okay, we do it for humans.”

Hollywood celebrities have also thrown their support behind HSI to produce the powerful stop-motion animated short film, Save Ralph, calling for an end to cosmetic testing on animals around the world.

The short film premiered last week, April 6 (watch the four-minute animation at the end of this article). Oscar winning writer and director Taika Waititi voices Ralph, a test rabbit in a toxicology lab. Ralph is interviewed by a film crew, starting at his house. He’s blind in his right eye, which is pink and swollen, and you realize later on how this happened.

In that Kiwi accent (Taika’s), he explains a matter-of-factly that he’s a tester in a toxicology lab and every day he has chemical poured up and down his back or dripped into his eyes.

“But it’s not a big deal. At the end of the day, it’s okay—we do it for humans. They’re far superior to us animals.”

My god, this short film is so powerful! TBH, it made me cry—and angry that cosmetic companies still do animal testing even when there are alternatives.

Ralph and his friends in the lab. Voiced by Taika Waititi, Zac Efron, Olivia Munn among others.
Then someone injects chemicals in his eye. 

Also in the cast are comedian Ricky Gervais, actors Zac Efron, Olivia Munn, Pom Klementieff, and Tricia Helfer.

Writer and director Spencer Susser (Hesher, The Greatest Showman) and producer Jeff Vespa (Voices of Parkland) teamed up with the Arch Model studio of puppet maker supreme Andy Gent to bring Ralph to life. The film is also being launched in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Vietnamese with Rodrigo Santoro, Gad Elmelah, Denis Villeneuve, George Lopez and others voicing the characters in those languages, and Maggie Q providing a video message of support.

In a news release, HSI president Jeffrey Flocken says, Save Ralph is a wake-up call that animals are still suffering for cosmetics, and now is the time for us to come together to ban it globally. Today we have an abundance of reliable, animal-free approaches for product safety assurance, so there’s no excuse for making animals like Ralph suffer to test cosmetics or their ingredients.”

Ralph at the end of his work day.
Lab animals are shaved on their back to test skin reaction.

The #SaveRalph campaign shows the plight of countless rabbits and other animals suffering and hopes for viewers to help ban animal testing of cosmetics once and for all.”

Director Spencer Susser says, “Animals in cosmetic testing labs don’t have a choice and it’s our responsibility to do something about it. When the opportunity came up to create a new campaign for Humane Society International, I felt that stop motion was the perfect way to deliver the message.”

“When you see the horrifying reality of the way animals are treated, you can’t help but look away. What I was hoping to do with this film was create something that delivers a message without being too heavy handed. I hope that audiences fall in love with Ralph and want to fight for him and other animals like him, so we can ban animal testing once and for all.”

Real lab rabbits in France. They are not given pain relief when they are tested on the skin, ears or eyes. 
They are subjected to suffering throughout their lives.

Troy Seidle, HSI vice president for research and toxicology, says: “It’s easy to assume that companies are the problem, but the truth is they are a vital part of the solution. It’s laws that need to be changed, and industry leaders like Lush, Unilever, P&G, L’Oréal and Avon are working with us to secure meaningful animal testing bans in many of the world’s most influential beauty markets. We’ve recruited Ralph as our spokesbunny to help get these laws over the finish line.”

Actor Maggie Q says: “I believe in people. I feel if they knew about the enormous suffering caused to animals in the name of beauty—they would demand differently.”

The campaign is in 16 countries including 10 Southeast Asian nations.

Watch Save Ralph below.