Lush’s human product testing – ethical or opportune PR?

April 25, 2012

Lush’s human product testing with eye sprays

Lush’s Human product testing
While I browsed the Daily Mail during my lunch break (my guilty pleasure), one article stood out, mainly because of its harrowing pictures.
A woman, dressed in a flesh-coloured body stocking, had her head yanked back and mouth wrenched open while she was force fed and had copious amounts of product poured into her eyes and smothered across her face.
The sadistic and shocking display took place in the shop window of a Lush Cosmetics’ store, and was the brands way of demonstrating what an animal endures in aid of product testing.
Lush force feeding a human
Lush’s animal testing protest
Lush's human testing attracted the crowds
Lush Cosmetics and Humane Society International joined forces to launch the largest-ever global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics.
The woman who underwent the ordeal was a student artist who volunteered for the gig, which took place at Lush’s Regent Street branch in London.

Courting controversy

Lush’s human product testing stunt has attracted mixed views.  Across the internet, comments ranged from condemnation to enlightenment.
The latter said they’d look out for the ‘Leaping bunny’ sign which says not tested on animals, while the former felt. the demonstration was a shameless, disturbing PR stunt.
Another view was that the campaign had sadistic connotations, which objectified women.
Now, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and such stunts are always open to interpretation.  For what it’s worth here are my thoughts…
Yes, Lush’s human product testing was a PR stunt.  Of course it was.  Lush – however ethical it may be – is still a business after all.  It wanted to get media attention.
In fact, show me a brand that doesn’t.  This shouldn’t be condemned, it’s just plain business.

My view from a PR perspective

Also, from a PR point of view, by highlighting animal cruelty, Lush is also providing free publicity to all those other cosmetic brands that offer ‘Leaping Bunny’ products which haven’t been tested on animals.

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So Lush isn’t going to own this market, they’re just pushing forward the wider issue of animal testing.
Yes, Lush’s human product testing was disturbing.  It was meant to be.  Quite frankly, a shocking image will gain more attention than a bland written statement.
But I don’t think that the display was disgusting or distasteful – it was a powerful way of bringing the issue of animal cruelty into the public consciousness.
More to the point, the woman volunteered for the testing, the animals don’t.

Lush’s human testing – an objectification of women?

Was the women objectified?  Well, I honestly think that PETA’s gratuitous ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ is more guilty of objectifying women.
Hoards of female celebrities clamour on the bandwagon to get their kit off and gain media attention for the worthy cause.  Some of the pictures PETA publish are more suited to a lads’ mag than a charity campaign.
Has it worked?  It’s too early to say.  PR is not an overnight solution, and it will take a lot more to influence a sea-change of thought than using a woman in product testing.
But if it has indeed encouraged some women to look out for the ‘leaping bunny’, than that’s a success in itself.
Working in PR, I know that the best campaigns are the ones that provoke thought and inspire debate, and Lush’s campaign grabbed my attention and those of many others.  And in my opinion, this is a campaign that – for right or wrong – will be remembered.
However, note to Lush: here’s a bit of free PR advice – if in the future you want to avoid the female objectivity and sexist claims, stick a man in a stocking and carry out those horrible tests on him instead.
What are your thoughts on Lush’s human product testing campaign?  

About the Author


I’m a British-Bengali Muslim mum-of-two. My pictures aren’t filtered and neither are my words. I’m not a makeup artist, chef or lifestyle guru. I’m just me, sharing honest beauty reviews for brown skin, halal restaurant finds, travel inspo, mum life hacks, easy Bengali recipes and more. If that’s your bag, keep reading!

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