Urban Decay’s “Edgy” Move to China

Animal testing has always been a major issue within the beauty, science, and other communities which ties into animal abuse, environmental issues, as well as the ethics of it. But what exactly is animal testing? According to the site, respectfully called, “About Animal Testing“, this is what animal testing is:

Animal testing is a phrase that most people have heard but are perhaps still unsure of exactly what is involved. Whether it is called animal testing, animal experimentation or animal research, it refers to the experimentation carried out on animals. It is used to assess the safety and effectiveness of everything from medication to cosmetics, as well as understanding how the human body works. While supporters believe it is a necessary practice, those opposed to animal testing believe that it involves the torture and Suffering Of Animals.

On the page, it further explains why animal testing is done but this page from the American Anti-Vivisection Society goes into further detail and possible reasons why it’s so controversial.

Don’t get me wrong! There are companies that do not take part in animal testing (here’s another list by a blogger who refuses to write about those companies who do practice animal testing). but it seems that Urban Decay is going to go back on their word and thus, kicking themselves off the list. Not only are Urban Decay known for the amazing products (in various and wonderful colors that they have) but they’re also known for having vegan ingredients in their products as well.

As recently as yesterday, they made an announcement that they are planning to move productions into China. And there is a major backlash. According to the Care2: The Animal Welfare Cause blog, Urban Decay posted this statement on their Facebook page:

To all our UDers: We have decided to sell Urban Decay products in China. Because of China’s policies, this has upset some of our loyal fans who are also animal rights activists. For complete information, please visit http://www.urbandecay.com/chinainfo. We are listening to all of your feedback and questions, and will try to address every single one of you. We do want to address one FAQ: No, Urban Decay will not test on animals in China. However, the Chinese government may conduct a test using our products before they can be sold there. We absolutely realize that for many of you, it makes no difference who is doing the testing. But, animal rights are still very much important to Urban Decay, and our decision was a thoughtful one. Changes are already happening in China, and we will give our all to help advocate alternative methods.

The bolded is my emphasis. Okay, so if there’s more information on the China info page, how come this is all I see?:

Shown: The complete information about the move to China.

For those who just don’t want to look at the screencap, here’s everything that’s on the page:


Urban Decay is planning to sell our products in China.

If you have any questions, our customer service team is available to you: info@urbandecay.com

For Urban Decay fans interested, founding partner Wende Zomnir will also host a live web chat in two weeks to answer your questions. Please click here to be notified of the date and time of the chat.

Editors or advocacy groups interested in interviews may contact us at publicrelations@urbandecay.com

That’s great and wonderful that they’re planning to have a live chat with a founding partner and basically, “We’re going to sell our products in China because of reasons”! I mean it’s better than of just explaining the stance on the site instead of Facebook.

Oh wait, except they forgot that people are going to copy and paste it everywhere.

For the most part, it reads similar to what it says on their Facebook page: “We are aware of the law but we promise to keep our word! No animal testing! Hurrah, hurrah!” In case it gets deleted somehow, here’s the entire statement. Remember, the bolded and underlined parts are my emphasis that I’m going to discuss later:

Urban Decay is going to sell our products in China. Because of China’s policies on animal testing, we know that this will not be a popular decision with some of our loyal customers. But the decision is a thoughtful one.

For 16 years, we have been committed to two key causes: women’s rights, and the fight against animal testing. Our dedication to those causes will not waver.

For those of you unfamiliar with China’s policies, the sticking point is this: the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. The government has not told us if they have exercised this right with our products. So, our brand does not test on animals, but the Chinese government might conduct a one-time test using our products. Do we like China’s policies? No…and that is really the point. Going into China was a huge decision for Urban Decay. But, we believe that change cannot and will not happen by outside pressure alone in a closed market. Change can only happen from within. When we enter the Chinese market, we will do our part to help make those changes.

When we were considering expanding into China, a group of marketing consultants told us to remove the section of our company history that describes our crusade against animal testing. “It doesn’t mean anything to the Chinese beauty customer,” they said. Of course, we refused. Our “no animal testing” policy is part of who we are, and has been since day one. The news that animal issues don’t even register with the average Chinese consumer was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go there. During Urban Decay’s infancy, we worked hard to inform consumers about animal rights in the United States and Europe. The battleground for animal rights is now in China, and we want to be there to encourage dialogue and provoke change.

We also hope to shed some light on women’s rights issues in China. As a company that caters to a female customer, this is extremely important to us. For one thing, going into China is a way for us to advance women into important professional positions. We will help grow the cosmetics industry, which primarily employs and creates career paths for women. Although workers’ employment rights are a relatively new concept there, progress has been made partially because of pressure from businesses, consumers, and advocacy groups from other countries. Based on this, our belief is that both an outside force and inside pressure for change can result in helping transform both the importance of women and animal testing policies in China. And more importantly, we hope to influence the perspective of the citizens on both of these issues.

If we don’t go to China, other companies without our beliefs will, and the culture will never change. We want to encourage a culture of consumers who care enough to buy cruelty-free products, and who view professional women as role models who influence their lives on a daily basis.

Yes, we are a for-profit company. And yes, we would eventually like to make money in China. But we don’t stand to turn a profit in China for quite a while, partially because the market isn’t quite ready to sustain an untraditional brand like ours. If it were only about the money, we would wait a few years. But our foray into this market is also about participating in an amazing time of change in China. We don’t like animal testing (and neither do the 13 dogs in our office), but we are trying to change the world… even if it is one eye shadow at a time! Sitting on the sidelines isn’t our style. We understand that you might not like our decision, but we hope you can respect it.

For any advocates or Urban Decay fans interested, Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir will host a live chat on urbandecay.com to answer questions about our entry into China.

In both the Facebook statement and the deleted statement, they say that either way, they’re going to have to comply with the Chinese law by which the government may or may not conduct a test using their products before they can be sold there. I am not keen on this law myself. I’ve tried to research it but I’ve come up empty. There are some issues I have with a statement like this. They won’t be in any particular order but bear with me.

  • I get that Urban Decay is a for-profit organization and business. Fine. We’ve established that. Money comes first and last. But why would the marketing consultant(s) tell them to delete the history about the animal testing? It’s said that:

    “It doesn’t mean anything to the Chinese beauty customer,”

    Really? Do you know every Chinese woman in China who purchases these products? I am very sure, especially with China’s booming economy that there’s a lot of education being passed around (thank you, Internet). I do realize that there are a lot of websites blocked by the People’s Republic of China but the majority of China is now a capitalist country. Again, it makes me think about if there are certain movements in China that are aware of the underlying issues about animal testing.

    Oh wait. Here’s one organization: Chinese Companion Protection Network (CCAPN). According to its entry in Wikipedia, it was launched in 2004 and they supervise and support the companion animal protection in Chinese communities. They also help the exchange of resources and information between groups and individuals. As recently as 2007, according to their campaign report, by 2004 there were already some isolated companion animal rights group emerging in China. There’s also the Animal Rights in China (unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link for this group) among other groups. The groups have definitely been growing in the past few years. So who’s not interested in animal rights in China?

  • The comments about the treatment of workers in China as well as women’s rights. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is very valid concerns about these issues, especially with the ongoing forced abortions of the female fetuses. It is wrong. While China did ~vow to punish those who help abort female fetuses, the decision to turn the practice into an illegal act contradicts that very vow. Actions speak louder than words. It seems that they’re very aware that it’s a small change (beginning with them supposedly) but how do we know other companies haven’t been doing the same? Okay, excluding Apple and their treatment (as well as many other companies who either out-source, sell their products, or both) because we know what can happen. Honestly, as much as I’d like to believe them about how wonderful and awesome they’re going to treat them and how they’re going to try to start a revolution of change… it’s probably not going to happen.

    Or at least not right away. Eastern culture is very different from the Western culture that they’re used to. The Eastern culture involve more honor and more sense of duty to your family and community more so than yourself. In the Western culture, it’s more about your own self-worth (“every man for himself”) rather than your family’s or your community. Don’t get me wrong – people are different no matter where you’re from. People have their own opinions and experiences with different things. What I’m trying to say is that while it’s good that Urban Decay are determined to help out the Chinese community, they’re probably going to get a reaction: “Okay and…?”

    I would not doubt that there are movements for better treatment of women and workers and the LGQBT communities as well as others I cannot recall now. I’m not saying they shouldn’t impose their imperialistic ideals onto a bunch of poor natives. I’m saying they should be on the err of caution when dealing with worker treatments.

    Like any one else, the Chinese are hard workers. They appreciate everything they’ve earned and because of that, they’re such frugal spenders. My boyfriend is Chinese himself (although he is quite Americanized) and he is extremely prideful of his hard work. He’s struggling to find a job as a level designer (you can see his portfolio here) and he’s currently struggling to find a job in his field. The American economy itself is going down the hole and because of that, jobs are extremely hard to come across, especially for those students who graduate with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or any variation thereof. Most people would be like, “Okay. It’s hard right now. No problem. Just gotta keep trying.” My boyfriend does have the mindset but he’s also taking the fact he doesn’t have a job as a personal failure when it really isn’t his fault. He’s worked every single day when he was in college because he knew the stakes were going to be high and he knew that his field of work is highly competitive.

    And it breaks my heart. It really does. So Urban Decay asserting themselves in such a community really makes me wonder if they’re using this opportunity to exploit how much of a good and wonderful company they are or are they being genuine? It’s extremely hard to say which is why I’m taking such an issue with it.

  • The fact they needed to state that they’re going to help. This also ties in with the above reason but maybe my reasoning with that is long enough. Again, they are asserting themselves as the poor Chinese workers’ saviors from the cruel companies such as other Chinese companies and… other US companies. From the way the statement is written, they’re making it sound like they’re trying to justify the move by saying, “Oh, it’s not allfor money! We want to help them!” Do you want a cookie? Do you want a gold star? Here’s one:

    Because not only did you royally piss off your customer base but you’re looking pretty arrogant right now.

Obviously it’s very clear I have a lot of feelings regarding this “edgy” decision Urban Decay made. As a future Gyaru and future Urban-Chan, I love their colors and their products. I love that they used to actually mean when they say they’re anti-animal-testing. I just loved how unique they were. However, because of this, they’ve lost yet another possible customer: me.

Urban Decay is also very popular with the North American Gyaru (among others who do have access to their products) so I wonder how this news would impact the Gyaru community as well. Please leave your comments and, oh my goodness, thank you for reading this long post. I do apologize if you’re just glazing over words by now.

What do you think about this decision? Is it good that they’re expanding or is it just a backstabbing move? Please feel free to leave a comment! But please be respectful in this post. The comments are moderated as always but this is just a reminder.


3 Responses to Urban Decay’s “Edgy” Move to China

  1. peachymilk says:

    Urban Decay have lost me as a customer because of this also! Everyone lets make a stand! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Urban Decay Backs Out of Going to China « { rainbow chiffon }

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