By  on March 4, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Cosmetics executives are breathing easier these days as the spotlight on animal rights has turned from laboratory testing to fur.

But activists with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say the lull is only temporary. Winter is the peak time for fur protests, they noted, citing the recent occupations of the New York headquarters of Vogue magazine and Calvin Klein.

And more significantly, PETA is locked in quiet negotiations with a number of companies that may be rethinking their testing policies since Paris-based cosmetics giant L'OrÄal agreed to an animal test ban in October.

"We're using the victory of L'Oreal to pressure the other companies who still do animal testing to stop," said Dan Mathews, PETA's director of international campaigns. "Companies have open ears now, I think."

Mathews would not identify any of the wavering companies, saying, "It wouldn't be fair."

Just as PETA refuses to let up the pressure, the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, which has fought the animal rights activists every step of the way, is keeping up the counteroffensive.

The industry group plans to continue challenging PETA's test-ban drive on the legislative front, said Michael Petrina, vice president for legislative relations. "The important thing is, if any single state were to pass a bill, it would set a very bad precedent for other states."

After years of conflict, the battle lines remain in place. Petrina noted that there is little point in talk at this stage. CTFA does not plan to meet with PETA members or otherwise try to resolve differences, he said, adding,"I'm not sure there's anything we can say that would change their minds."

L'Oreal is the latest of five well-known major companies to abandon animal testing. The others are Avon, Revlon, Benetton and EstÄe Lauder, according to Debbi Liebergot, international campaigns coordinator.

Lauder was never targeted specifically with a PETA campaign, but the company scrapped animal testing. Benetton sees its decision to stop animal testing as a "partnership" in support of PETA and a commitment to setting more compassionate test standards.

L'Oreal abandoned animal testing after four years of letter-writing, demonstrations and advertisements aimed at the company.

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