Cosmetics shops in Weymouth and Dorchester are urging customers and animal-lovers to sign a petition calling for an end to testing on animals.

The Weymouth and Dorchester branches of animal-friendly cosmetics firm The Body Shop have between them collected about 200 signatures a week since the petition was launched in June last year, calling on the UN to introduce an international convention against testing on animals.

The signatures collected by the two Dorset branches have contributed to more than 5 million gathered by the chain nationally. The petition's target is 8 million signatures by August, with the hope that the 80 per cent of the world's cosmetics firms that still test their products on animals can be persuaded to end the practice and switch to cruelty-free modern methods.

The Body Shop was founded by Dame Anita Roddick with an ethos positioned firmly against testing products on animals; controversy arose when the firm was bought for £650 million by L'Oreal in 2006, as the French cosmetics giant was known to test on animals. Last year Brazilian firm Natura, which has an ethos more closely aligned with The Body Shop's original stance, bought the company.

Becky Leeming, the manager of The Body Shop branch in Weymouth, said that when she joined the company in 2015, she had been 'shocked' by the amount of animal testing still going in the world.

"There is absolutely no need for animal testing these days," said Becky. "Time has moved forward and there are new testing methods available, such as computer-based analysis and laboratory-produced animals skins."

According to The Body Shop's campaign, organised in conjunction with Cruelty Free International, an estimated 500,000 animals are used globally every year for cosmetics testing, and 80 percent of the world's countries have no laws banning animal testing, while up to 1,400 individual animals to test just one ingredient in a cosmetic product.

Becky noted that while some customers may have deserted The Body Shop at the time of its takeover by L'Oreal in 2006, she hoped the company would be able to win them back by demonstrating its renewed commitment to ethical consumption and combatting cruelty to animals.

"I'm really happy that we've joined Natura, which, like us, promotes fair trade with suppliers and refrains from carrying out animal testing," she said. "We lost a few loyal customers in 2006 and we want to invite them and any other members of the public back into a local store to sign the petition."

Becky made assurances that email addresses provided on the petition were used only for validation, and not for any marketing purposes.

"There will be people who aren't aware this petition exists," she said. "But who care enough about animal testing that they will want to sign it."