ANIMAL rights campaigners dressed as rats and locked themselves in cages to protest about cosmetic testing on animals.

The stunt in Darlington market square today was organised by animal welfare group Uncaged to raise public awareness about well-known beauty products which are tested on animals.

Dr Dan Lyons, campaigns director at Uncaged, said a key ingredient in many Herbal Essences shampoos and conditioners, made by US firm Procter & Gamble, was tested on live pregnant rats and their foetuses.

He added: "Consumers are being misled by the beauty companies who claim they don't animal test their products - but they still test the ingredients, or use a third party to do testing for them.

"We want to shed light on what really goes on in the beauty industry, so consumers can make an informed choice."

"If you knew more than a thousand animals had died to create your favourite shampoo, would you still want to buy it?"

Uncaged is calling on Procter & Gamble to end all animal testing of its cosmetics and household products.

The organisation is also lobbying MPs to support monitoring of current legislation, which limits animal testing of products sold in the UK.

Celebrities Twiggy, Bill Bailey, Michaela Strachan, Chrissie Hynde, Sue Perkins and Benjamin Zephaniah have all pledged their support.

A statement on the Proctor & Gamble website reads: "Proctor & Gamble wants ultimately to eliminate the need for all research involving animals for consumer products and their ingredients.

"In the meantime, we use non-animal alternatives whenever possible across the company."