Summertime . . . and the living is easy. So goes the song. And it is true that summer conjures up images of sun, surf and suntan lotion.
And there is a lot of suntan lotion moving off the shelves about now. Is it somehow eco-related? Well, if you spend any time worrying about animals like the spotted owl or the dolphin, there is a way you can help a much larger number of animals from human depredation--and get a tan at the same time.
Next time you're in the cosmetics area of a store picking up ointments--oil, sun block or moisturizer--for the next trip to the beach, ask the salesperson for a brand that has clearly marked on it: "Not tested on animals."
Such testing has been phased out by most California cosmetics manufacturers.
"We test on ourselves," says Caryle Wilson of Desert Essence, a Topanga firm.
Oxnard's Assemblyman Jack O'Connell says, "Presently, there are over a dozen non-animal tests voluntarily being used by major cosmetics companies such as Redken, Revlon and Jergens."
He's talking about a bill he's just pushed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento. Under the new bill, which is now being considered by the Legislature, product testing on animals would be limited to medical research.
The bill has a distinguished bipartisan list of sponsors, but its origins are quite humble. Oxnard's Beverlee McGrath and Dorothy Done started it all.
"I eat meat," said McGrath. "I'm no radical."
Indeed, McGrath served as president of Oxnard's Republican Women's Club and as a state committee member. But when she discovered the number of rabbits and other animals involved in testing products "just for vanity," she decided to organize a statewide coalition to seek legislative animal protection.
While the politicians are huddling in the hall, we can go out to the mall and vote in our own way. You won't have any trouble doing so if you simply ask salespeople to show you what's available.
The spread of "cruelty free" skin products has been amazing. Initially, it was via natural-foods stores like Lassen's Health Foods in Ventura County.
"Requests constantly increased," said Doris Lassen who since 1970 has set up four stores specializing in such products--notably Rachel Perry's products made in nearby Chatsworth.
Mrs. Gooch's, Kaysers' and other health-oriented retailers have followed suit. And this month, a British firm devoted exclusively to such skin-care products, The Body Shop, opened just east of here in Topanga Plaza.
I mention them because they have an unique way of advertising their eco-virtuous body-care products. They don't advertise at all. Six hundred stores worldwide and no advertising budget. "It's all word of mouth," says Gregg Purcell, manager of the newest outlet. Asked if every one was a success despite no ads, he gave me a droll reply: "Only one closed, for a while last summer. It was in Kuwait."
I must confess that I, like many people in the county, have been only vaguely aware of the relationship between animals and things like skin cream, suntan products, moisturizers and makeups. But I got my consciousness raised really fast when I saw something recently in a book I was reading aloud to a 4-year-old family member.
According to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' "ABC's for a Better Planet," a Random House reference book for kids, the letter 'C' is not for something like car-pooling or carmel corn, but for "Cruelty-Free Products."
* Cruelty-free products are sold under the Rachel Perry, Desert Essence, Nature's Gate, Nexxus and Redken labels.
* For information on Bill AB110 on animal testing, call Assemblyman Jack O'Connell's Oxnard office, 487-9437.