PETA pressures Avon to stop animal testing, United States, 1989


The goal of the campaign was to pressure Avon to permanently stop using animals to test cosmetics.

Time period notes

The animal rights movement began to move into the mainstream media attention during the 1980's once it started to gain wider support from professionals, academics, and the general public.

Time period

February, 1989 to June, 1989


United States

Location Description

Nationwide. Specific cities with Avon manufacturing plants such as in Atlanta, Georgia; Suffern, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Newark, Delaware; Pasadena, California; Morton Grove, Illinois were targeted for protests.
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Protestors called Preston and other representatives of other corporations for statements
  • Protest outside the hotel where the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association

Methods in 6th segment

  • Signatories declared that they would not buy Avon products until they stopped animal testing
  • Protestors delivered a 10 foot long replica of a "Pinnochio" nose to Avon's Chief Executive and Chairman, James E. Preston
  • Protestors wore a "Pinnochio" nose
  • International boycott of Avon products

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Flyers were distributed nationally toward the end of the campaign, but no date is available.
  • PETA members went door-to-door to distribute 3 million door-hangers on homes that read “Avon Killing,” a play on the cosmetic company’s advertising “Avon Calling”
  • PETA members across the nation lobbied Avon employees, and told them about the animal testing practices that occurred at Avon

Segment Length

18 days


Susan Rich, PETA coordinator of the Avon Campaign
PETA Coordinators and leaders in different cities

External allies

Friends of Animals
Funds for Animals


Avon (One of the largest cosmetics companies in the United States)

Nonviolent responses of opponent





Group characterization

animal rights activists (national and international)

Groups in 1st Segment

Peoples for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Friends of Animals

Segment Length

18 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The campaign was successful in obtaining it's goals. Avon had been phasing out animal testing for several years, and it is unclear whether their decision to permanently phase out animal testing would have occurred regardless of PETA actions. The organization of PETA increased in size over the campaign, and it brought public attention to PETA, other large cosmetic companies who were preforming animal testing, and the issue of animal rights.

Database Narrative

The animal rights movement of the 1980’s moved into the mainstream media as it was joined by professionals and academics. The new public attention increased demand from concerned consumers for products developed without animal testing, and companies began more widely using alternatives such as in vitro cell cultures and computer catalogs of known substances.

In 1987, companies used approximately 14 million animals, mostly mice, rabbits, and rats to test different products and use them as subjects in scientific experiments, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was one of the largest and most vocal animal rights organizations in the United States and had approximately 300,000 members nationwide in 1989.

PETA put pressure on the large cosmetic company, Avon, to stop their use of animals in cosmetic testing. Avon had decreased their use of animal testing from 14,500 animals in 1981 to 2,423 in 1987 and were seeking alternatives. Susan Rich, the coordinator of the PETA campaign, recognized the progress Avon had made to move away from animal testing to other alternatives, but decided to intensify the pressure on Avon because PETA thought that, with pressure, they might force them to completely ban animal testing from all of their products. PETA leaders were skeptical of Avon’s commitment to decreasing animal testing because Avon opposed the prohibition of animal testing and lobbied against legislative bans against animal testing proposed in several states. According to Avon’s chief executive and chairman James E. Preston, several overseas cosmetic markets required animal testing, and Avon didn’t want to push countries to change their laws.

By targeting products that were both publicly popular and that were not used to save lives or find medical cures to harmful diseases, namely cosmetics, animal rights activist Henry Spira, head of a New York based animal rights coalition, speculated that PETA targeted Avon to gain sympathy from a wider public audience and generate public awareness of animal rights.

To ensure that PETA continued to phase out animal testing and eventually stop animal testing permanently, PETA members across the nation lobbied Avon employees, and told them about the animal testing practices that occurred at Avon. Many of these employees were unaware of the practice and after finding out, they quit their jobs, putting further pressure on Avon.

Nationwide, PETA members went door-to-door to distribute 3 million door-hangers on homes that read “Avon Killing,” a play on the cosmetic company’s advertising “Avon Calling” to educate the general public on the issue of Avon’s animal testing.

Near the end of February, Friends of Animals and PETA organized a protest outside the hotel in Boca Raton, Florida, where the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (an organization made of 240 members of cosmetic manufacturing and chemical companies) was holding its annual meeting, of which Avon was a part. Protesters called James E. Preston several times in his hotel room and asked for statements regarding the animal testing. Protesters also called representatives from other organizations, such as, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Gillette, who also did not answer the phone calls.

Avon stated in a press release on 2 March 1989,  that they expected to stop using animal testing within three months, and planned to stop all animal testing in June. According to a PETA representative, Avon at this point, performed about 10 percent of their tests on animals, and every month they promised to send a letter to PETA stating that they would stop all animal testing within the next three months. The same day, PETA launched an international boycott of Avon products, that would persist until they completely phased out animal testing. They began a petition that received 250,000 signatures from people promising to boycott Avon products.

On 5 April 1989, Avon announced that they would replace the Draize eye testing procedure that involved animals with a method called Eyetex, which was less expensive and performed on cell culture instead of animals. They were the first of the major cosmetic corporations to stop Draize testing.  It is unclear whether this decision was a result of pressure from PETA, or whether it was a part of Avon’s plans to phase out animal testing. However, the policy did allow Avon’s raw product suppliers to use the Draize test.

In June, when Avon failed to completely stop animal testing, the company announced that the deadline would need to be pushed back. PETA activists gave James E. Preston a “Pinocchio Award,” a large 10-foot replica of a nose, to symbolize dishonesty. The meaning behind PETA’s award drew on the character of Pinocchio, a wooden boy in a popular children's’ story whose nose increased in size when he told lies.

PETA members and other animal activists planned a protest for 3 June 1989 to decry Avon’s misrepresented deadline. The protest took place at Avon manufacturing plants in Atlanta, Georgia; Suffern, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Newark, Delaware; Pasadena, California; Morton Grove, Illinois; and outside of James E. Preston’s home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. According to Susan Rich, the coordinator of the PETA campaign against Avon, protesters wore Pinocchio noses to pressure Avon to stop stalling and follow through with their statements to completely ban animal testing. PETA also launched a national informational flyer campaign.

In late June 1989, Avon announced that they were permanently ending product safety testing on animals, making them the first large cosmetic company to completely stop cosmetics testing. Avon asserted that pressure from PETA had nothing to do with their decision, and they were already on track to phase out animal testing. After the Avon decision, PETA successfully pressured other large cosmetic industries, including Revlon, Faberge, Noxell Corp., and Mary Kay.


The success of Avon lead PETA to campaign against other large cosmetic corporations, such as Revlon, and Gillette. Following the announcement of Avon, several other large cosmetic industies either decreased, suspended, or stopped completely all animal testing. These companies included Revlon, Faberge, Noxell Corp., and Mary Kay.


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Anon. 1989. "Not Just a Cosmetics Change: Avon Halts Tests on Animals, Draws Praise from Activists." Philadelphia Daily News June 23, Late Sports ed., National sec.: 2. Print.

Anon. 1989. "Revlon Completes Program to End Animal Testing." UPI NewsTrack 30 June 1989: n. pag. Print.

Anon. 2015. "PETA's Milestones for Animals." PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Retrieved December 18, 2015.

Anon. 2015. “Avon Products, Inc. &Amp; Consumer Safety: Commitment to Science--Respect for Animal Welfare.” Avon. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

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Donato, Marla. 1989. "Animal testing shows cosmetics' not-so-pretty face - Activists win battles with manufacturers," The Orange County Register, September 29, pp. j05.

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Libman, Gary. 1989. “On The Cutting Edge of Animal Rights Activism.” Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1989. Retrieved December 16, 2015.

Nibley , Marybeth. 1989. “Beauty And the Beast Animals Still Pay the Highest Price for Our Glamour.” San Jose Mercury News, Morning Final , pp. 13D–13D.

Paola, Jim Di. 1989. “Animal Activists Protest Makeup Tests.” Sun Sentinel, February 26, pp. 1B–1B.

Sneade, Elizabeth. 1989. “Beauty And the Beast the Debate Rages: Is Animal Testing Necessary to Protect the Consumer or Is It a Cruel Price to Pay for a New Beauty Product?” Sun Sentinel, June 15, All Editions, pp. 1E–1E.

Sneade, Elizabeth. 1989. “Cosmetics Firms' Animal Testing Under Fire.” Orlando Sentinel, July 6, 3 Star, pp. E6–E6.

Sneade, Elizabeth. 1989. “Whether Leather? Readers Speak Out-Maybe Your Looks Can Kill.” Sun Sentinel, July, pp. 3E–3E.

Stevenson, Lois. 1989. “Book Poignantly Paints Women And Their Dogs.” The Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ), May 28.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Rebecca Griest 03/12/2016