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L’Oreal punch line, “Because you’re worth it”, never made much sense to me- Because I’m worth what?? All the money that I blow up on buying their products? Am I worth the 5-in-1 remedy their shampoos offer or the lipsticks or the eye liners they sell? Or, as I recently discovered, on a more sombre note, am I worth the cruelty the animals are subjected to as such products are tested on them ?

From the beginning I have a love hate relationship with the brand. When L’Oreal first came to India with its “salon excusive” tag I loved it- the shampoos, the felt tipped liners, the foundations, the lipsticks. Gradually however I outgrew the products…most of them anyways. Shampoos and the in salon hair treatments made the hair look great for a while but at the end of the day, I was just pumping more chemicals into my system. Get a dazzling new hair colour, combat the dryness by a shampoo meant for coloured hair, get hair smoothing treatments done- it was a vicious cycle I was caught in until I decided to chuck it all up, including the premium L’Oreal brand Kerastase and go natural. Likes of LUSH, Body Shop, Forest Essentials , Biotique came to my rescue. That I had, unknowingly, also moved to the realm of “cruelty free” cosmetic products, I just recently discovered.

A few days ago I accidentally came across a Facebook page called “Speak for Sasha”( https://www.facebook.com/SpeakForSasha ). Some friend had performed the universal action of “liking” or “sharing” something from that page. While I usually ignore such posts, the picture of a Beagle with soulful eyes caught my attention. And as I read it, all I knew was that I would never be able to pick up a cosmetic product again without checking first whether it is cruelty free or not.

“Animal Testing”, like so many other issues we grapple with, is a very controversial topic to debate. While its proponents would argue that for medical advancement such testing is inevitable, those against it say that many such tests fail on human beings thereby negating the very purpose of such testing. Honestly I don’t know enough about animal testing to have a well formed opinion. But what I do know is that no living creature should be knowingly and unmindfully subjected to cruelty or pain especially just to satisfy human vanity. The human race is as much capable of mind boggling sublimity as it is of unimaginable cruelty, not only towards another species but it’s own kind as well – Think Hitler and his well orchestrated dance of death. Animal kingdom, for all its ferocity and wildness, is not capable of something in similar vein. Being lower down in the chain of evolution does have its advantages it seems !!Does being higher up in this chain give us the right to subject the animal kingdom to anything we deem fit? Was the “purpose of their existence” just to satisfy human needs and human greed? What all will we excuse in the name of human advancement? How does one justify animal cruelty to make a better shampoo or lipstick? Where does one indeed draw the line?

In a country like ours, where human life comes cheap, it’s rather farfetched to talk of animal rights. When human beings are denied rights and justice, what can one expect for these poor creatures- be it in the lab or out of it? What to talk about others, I myself never spared a thought for it until recently. Not that I intended being cruel or promoting cruelty but I was simply unaware. “Awareness” – that to my mind is the key to it. Thereafter it’s each individuals personal call to take. Some may consider it yet another fad as “cruelty free” products are promoted or voice raised against animal testing. Some, like me, may decide to look for alternates to the extent possible. Some may jump in whole heartedly and work for this cause.

Do I have something personal against L’Oreal that I’ve taken their tag line as a point of departure? Not at all. Quite to the contrary I still love Lancome , Kerastase and The Body Shop, though the latter after its sale to L’Oreal is apparently no longer considered “cruelty free”. “Cruelty free” is not going to be an easy choice- Lotus, one of the cruelty free brands, I’ve never till date bothered to explore and MAC will be a tough call to replace. I’m unable to find the alternates for contact lens solution but at least I’m aware and making an informed choice. And that is what we all should do- be aware and make an informed choice. And yes, I would love a to see a rabbit instead of Aishwarya Rai promoting a “cruelty free” brand with a similar tag line- “Because we’re worth it”. Using such a product, at least I know I’ll sleep better at night with a clear conscience.