Green Cosmetics, Toiletries and Drugs

Beauty Without Cruelty kept approaching the Government of India pointing out that it was the right of each and every consumer to know whether products contained vegetarian or non-vegetarian ingredients. Eventually in 2001 a Government Notification made it mandatory for packaged food manufacturers to affix Veg/Non-veg symbols consisting of a square with dot within in green/brown. (There is a misconception that brown indicates the presence of egg, whereas the red symbol is used for flesh/meat. Actually, brown is the mandatory colour, but red is often used in its place. But whether red or brown, it indicates the presence of egg or meat, or both.)

As a result of BWC's continuous appeals to the Government to make it mandatory for carbonated waters to also carry the veg/non-veg symbols, these symbols began being affixed by manufacturers on their drinks in early 2009.

However, for many years Beauty Without Cruelty kept approaching the Government of India to make it mandatory for these Veg/Non-veg symbols to be also affixed on cosmetics, toiletries and drugs. 

Cosmetics and toilet preparations such as soaps are items that people use on their bodies, even their lips and for that reason are of concern to them. The ingredients used might be objectionable to many on grounds of vegetarianism, religion, on the method if testing employed or simply because of being allergic to particular substances.

BWC has researched this issue in great detail over decades and has unearthed some dubious sources and unethical testing methods employed in producing such items. Even if the substances and methods used may be currently within the law, we feel that consumers have the right to be fully informed by manufacturers of the constituents of products they are buying.

BWC has therefore specifically made the following requests to the Government periodically:

• Every ingredient used, no mater in how small a quantity should be declared in order of decreasing quantity on the label, using its scientific name.
• The same law that requires food producers to declare their product vegetarian or non-vegetarian through the use of the green and red symbols/logos should cover all (herbal, Ayurvedic, etc.) cosmetics and toilet preparations as well. The scientific names of the ingredients otherwise would be meaningless to the consumer, who is only concerned that it should not be of a non-vegetarian nature. (This is pending in court. See below.)
• A line declaring “Batch-tested upon animals” or “Not batch-tested upon animals” be added on the package. (This is irrelevant now because testing has been totally banned. See below.)

Nevertheless, from the very beginning BWC - India has campaigned against cosmetics and toiletries being tested by means of experiments on animals, and requested the government not to allow such tests.

In response to persistent demands from animal activists and the growing international trend of animals no longer being used to test cosmetics, at long last in February 2013, the DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) issued a directive to indefinitely suspend such tests till adequately validated non-animal methods are included in the safety standards by the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards). Then in June 2013, BIS removed animal-testing from its cosmetics standard and made non-animal alternative tests mandatory. If manufacturers desired to test new cosmetic ingredients or their finished products, they would need to obtain approval from the Central Drug Standards Control Organisation and it would be granted only after having complied with the non-animal tests. Furthermore, if a manufacturer tested a cosmetic product on animals, it would attract the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act making the company’s management liable for imprisonment up to 10 years and/or a fine up to Rs 10,000/-. A Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Notification followed in May 2014 stating “Import of cosmetics tested on animals prohibited. – No cosmetic tested on animals shall be imported.” would be inserted as 135-B in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945.

In short, no cosmetics tested on animals, whether by manufacturers in India or imported, can be sold November 2014 onwards. But unfortunately companies continued importing products which had been tested on animals and so in 2016 the DCGI directed all port officers, beauty and hygiene associations and state controllers to keep a close check on such products. The norms have been simultaneously relaxed with the proposed new regulations from the Health Ministry waiving trails for cosmetics which contain ingredients that have already been tested for use in pharmaceuticals.

Earlier, in March 2013 the Supreme Court over turned a 12-year old High Court verdict directing cosmetic
and drug manufacturers to print the veg and non-veg symbols on cosmetics and drugs, saying that the court had no jurisdiction to issue such directions and that it had already been considered by the Government. In view of this, BWC approached the Prime Minister and many politicians saying that they were bound to agree it was good that we can easily tell from the green and brown symbols affixed on packaged foods and beverages, whether the products are veg or non-veg. It was the right of all consumers – whether vegetarian or not – to know the contents of products. For example, no religious minded Indian would like to unknowingly purchase products like toothpastes or cosmetics that may contain ingredients derived from animals such as cows or pigs. We therefore requested their help in getting the Government of India to also make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix the green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like toilet preparations, cosmetics, dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals. By doing so the Government would be acting in public interest and consumers would be grateful that they could make informed choices. However, the then Government of India did not extend the law to cover additional products as requested.


In 2014, the new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi upon receiving a request from BWC immediately extended the Veg/Non-Veg labeling law to cover cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and toiletries.

In September 2014, IBHA (representing 32 big cosmetic manufacturers) was granted a stay by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court on the implementation of the Notification. Unfortunately, the Centre did not file their response as required in a fortnight and sought more time. Beauty Without Cruelty therefore sent the Government of India adequate information that should help them in the matter.

BWC salutes manufactures whose soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, cosmetics and toiletries do not contain animal ingredients. Long ago, they thought it prudent to proudly display the green symbol on their products.

Why should the other manufacturers, mainly multi-nationals, escape disclosing vital information on product ingredients? The public demand transparency, factual awareness and honesty, and realize that secrecy indicates some thing is amiss. After all, these days significantly fewer people support cruelty for vanity. Even non-vegetarians consciously avoid using items that are derived as a result of cruelty to animals. During the second half of 2015, at least 18 tankers headed to laundry soap manufacturing units in Punjab, containing tallow (claimed to be of buffalo) were seized by the police on complaints from cow vigilantes. There is no laboratory that can ascertain the origin of such tallow, whether buffalo or cow. It is a good enough reason for all the 125 or so manufacturers to substitute tallow with vegetable tallow/oil.

As consumers, it is our inherent right to know if the products we purchase are veg or non-veg. And, manufacturers should know the choice is ours – whether or not to use products containing animal ingredients. In all fairness, if to maintain and increase sales, they are forced to eliminate non-veg ingredients, just as well!

If there is no demand for unmarked (and non-veg marked) items, manufacturers will quickly change their formulas so they can display the veg symbol on their products. A step in the right direction occurred in July 2015 when the Scientific Committee advising the Drug Controller General of India decided in principle to replace gelatine capsules with cellulose capsules. It came about as a result of BWC’s awareness creating efforts specifically targeting the use of gelatine capsules derived from connective tissues, skin and bone of slaughtered cattle.


BWC’s campaign to make it mandatory for manufacturers to affix these green and brown symbols on each and every product consumed internally or used on our bodies like dietary supplements, medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals, continues. We would also like items such as agarbattis, disinfectants, air freshners, candles, adhesives, brushes, crockery, handicrafts and all other consumer products covered because they could contain hidden animal ingredients. After all, if a product is veg, why should the manufacturer not mark it so, especially when by doing so, sales are bound to increase?


Meanwhile, consumers could buy and use only those products marked with the green symbol (square with dot). They could also write to manufacturers demanding that they affix the veg/non-veg certification on their packages.

Page last updated on 19/09/16