Ethics Take a Dive

Ever since Jaws made everyone afraid to go in the water, it's been hard to garner much sympathy for sharks, but the story of squalene, often squeezed from their livers, might do it. Earlier this year, Unilever moved to stop using animal-based squalene in its skin and hair care products. Best-selling brands Dove and Pond's will now be Bruce-free.

Squalene, an oil used to soften hair and skin, can be extracted from vegetable sources such as olive oil, produced synthetically or harvested from the livers of deep-sea sharks. "The FDA doesn't make a distinction about the origin of squalene. It is a company issue and a company decision," says John Bailey, chief scientist of the Personal Care Products Council.

Unilever made its pledge after Oceana, the largest international oceanic environmental advocacy group, inquired whether the squalene used in Unilever brands was plant or animal-based. Oceana already reached out to many other cosmetic companies asking them to specify the source of squalene directly on labels, but with no result: "So far, no one has agreed to do this. However, this subject will possibly be a next step for our campaign. That is, investigating the EU directive on ingredient labeling, and seeing if we can get the directive changed so that the squalene is actually clarified on the ingredient list itself," says Rebecca Greenberg, marine wildlife scientist and spokesperson for the shark campaign at Oceana. It's now safe to go back in the water - for the sharks at least.

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