Condoms, Cosmetics & Cruelty: Putting an End to Animal Testing with The Rescue + Freedom Project
“The condoms are hilarious, but they’re also an educational tool…”
Not only are pets largely considered members of the family, but they’re also the subject of a niche economy. This year, Americans are projected to spend more than $72 billion on pet-related expenditures. Increasingly, young American couples opt for fur babies over real babies due to the reduced financial commitment offered by dogs and cats. Beyond the market for chew toys and gourmet food, dogs also play an unfortunate role in a far more sinister industry: consumer product testing.
Despite America’s broadly positive attitude toward pets, they’re still used as unwilling subjects in animal testing. Approximately 60,000 dogs are used in laboratories for testing each year, and they’re subject to inhumane conditions and painful procedures. The breed of choice in animal testing is the Beagle, taken advantage of for their naturally docile behavior.
Based out of Los Angeles, The Rescue + Freedom Project makes it their mission to rescue these abused Beagles and to put an end to animal testing. The organization recently attended RuPaul’s DragCon to raise awareness of animal testing and the implications it has on the cosmetics industry. Using Say It With A Condom’s custom condom wallets, The Rescue + Freedom Project culminates a hilarious design with the educational resources needed to put power back in the hands of the consumer.
Say It With A Condom spoke with Nately Sych, who works as a Finance and Administration Associate for the Rescue + Freedom Project, about why her organization attended Rupaul’s DragCon and the ways consumers can embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited
Nately Sych Displays the Rescue + Freedom Project Booth at DragCon
I’d love to start by asking you about DragCon! How did people respond to your booth and why did you choose DragCon specifically?
We understand that drag culture is heavily focused on makeup. This year, there were upwards of 40,000 attendees at DragCon, and many people who stopped by our booths had makeup on to complement the unique looks that they created specifically for the event. It’s great for us to be there not only as a support group, but also to talk about where your beauty really is, where your money is going, and to inspire a compassionate community.
We want to create a cruelty-free lifestyle by promoting companies that are no longer testing on animals, and luckily a lot of the vendors there were cruelty-free. We’re very inspired to see that new companies are choosing to be cruelty-free. They’re not using animals to conduct testing and they’re choosing not to sell in China, where testing on animals is mandatory by law. Unfortunately, many of the common makeup companies are no longer cruelty-free, or they’re bought out by a parent company that isn’t cruelty-free. For example, Estee Lauder, which sells in China, purchased MAC Cosmetics. Once they sold MAC in China, we deemed that they were no longer cruelty-free.
We’ve also created an app that you can download for free called “Cruelty-Cutter,” which allows you to scan the barcode on any cosmetic or household product and it will show you right away whether it’s cruelty-free or not. At DragCon, we showed people how to use it with live demos featuring an array of products that are and aren’t cruelty-free so that attendees could see how instant the results are. Whether you’re going to Target or Sephora, our app makes it super easy to determine whether or not a product has been tested on animals. This is how we inspire a cruelty-free lifestyle.
And of course, we wanted to give the attendees something to remember us by. You go to DragCon to create memories, so we wanted to give them something that’s memorable. The condoms are hilarious, but they’re also an educational tool and something to look back on and say ‘this is amazing. I can’t believe animals are still being used in laboratories.’ It was great to utilize such a unique way to raise awareness, and the condoms have always been my favorite.
When you showed the Cruelty-Cutter app to the attendees at DragCon, were they surprised to learn about the scale of products that aren’t cruelty-free?
We created a graphic that outlines brands that test on animals and brands that do not test on animals. When the attendees see logos on the poster, they’re often shocked because the brands are very familiar, but we’re able to show attendees which products to buy if they want to be a passionate consumer.
The goal is to give that inspiration at the end of the conversation where they want to become cruelty-free. People are making these changes, and they want to do the right thing and do right by these animals.
Tell me more about the pending legislation that Rescue + Freedom Project has in the works.
We are the creator of the Beagle Freedom Bill. What most people don’t know is that most laboratories are funded by our taxpayer money, we’re funding these places. We created this piece of legislation that prohibits laboratories from euthanizing animals once their studies are finished. Once the testing is completed, laboratories are instead required to adopt the animals out to either a rescue group or a family. Ideally, that rescue group would be us.
Unfortunately, these laboratories don’t like us. They don’t like what we’re doing because we’re trying to stop them. We’ve been able to pass the Beagle Freedom Bill in California, Nevada, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Delaware, and Rhode Island. We’re introducing this bill in as many states as we possibly can because it protects the rights of these animals. It’s the first step of our overall goal, which is to end animal testing altogether. There is no other legislation out there that protects laboratory animals, we’re trying to get these animals out safely and provide them with homes.
Other legislation includes Cruelty-Free LA. We partnered with a congressman in the Los Angeles City Council that introduced a protocol to make sure that all government-funded facilities use cruelty-free products including cleaning supplies, hand soaps, and anything else you might need for a government-funded building. Los Angeles would be the first city to create this kind of legislation. We’re very excited to see if this will go through, and we hope that it will inspire other major cities to go forward with it and create a momentum for cruelty-free initiatives.
Belle The Beagle, rescued from a laboratory in Northern California, gets some love at DragCon
What can the people reading this do to help support it?
Whenever the bill is introduced in a new state, we always ask our supporters to call their local representatives and show support for the bill. Another way is to live a cruelty-free lifestyle and not give money to companies who are testing on animals. If enough people stop buying Tide, for example, they’ll see that money is being lost. We want to encourage the public to understand that their money matters to these companies, and if we no longer give them our money, then they’re going to have to listen to us at some point and understand what consumers care about. If we show them that we care about cruelty-free products, we can help them to make that change.
Why should people care about animal testing?
The FDA doesn’t require laboratories to test on animals for cosmetics, it’s something that companies decide to do. We like to focus on the stories that we create after what the animals have gone through. We’re trying to make a positive change in the world, and if we keep focusing on the negative we don’t feel that we’re creating an inspiring change. Instead, we show the dogs with their families, stepping on grass or water for the first time, getting a treat for the first time, or getting their own dog bed that’s theirs. That’s the kind of footage and emotion that we like to focus on because it’s inspiring, it’s positive, and it makes you want to make that change for these animals.
Condom Graphics Designed by April Arrington, Brand Manager With The Rescue + Freedom Project
To learn more about The Rescue + Freedom Project, visit their website and follow them on social media: