Drone footage of Australian crocodile farms. Images: Farm Transparency Project

1: Factory-farming ‘exotic’ and native animals is not conservation

It is regularly claimed that farming these crocodiles is positive for the species’ conservation.

This conservation claim, made by the industry itself, Government, and even organisations that supposedly protect wild animals, is misleading and inaccurate.

The drone images of crocodile factory-farms released by Farm Transparency Project have never been offered to the public, who are instead deceived by marketing and tourism adverts that paint crocodile farming as natural, even as animal and environment friendly. Factory-farms are led by commerce, not conservation.

The claim that putting a dollar value to the lives of crocodiles is beneficial to their conservation and protection is absurd. A similar claim could be made if the Government suggested farming Tasmanian devils and making fur coats from their skins – something that would certainly not be considered acceptable or ethical.

Crocodile in an isolated, barren pen. Image: Farm Transparency Project.

2: Factory-farmed crocodiles live miserable lives

Crocodile farming Codes of Practice state that ‘raising stock’ crocodiles must receive an abysmal 25%-50% of their own body length of space. Meaning, a one metre long crocodile can legally receive only 0.25 to 0.5mof space.

Factory-farms that keep crocodiles in cement-based cages like the ones exposed can then claim they are ‘high welfare’, going above and beyond industry recommendations. This is clearly misleading as while they are providing more space than required, this is no life for a crocodile.

In the wild, crocodiles have been found to travel over 10km at a time, sometimes even ‘surfing’ currents, travelling hundreds of kilometres over weeks. When crocodiles are kept in confinement, they are denied the ability to express their natural behaviours.

An expensive ‘safari’ slaughter and ‘luxury exotic skin’ bag from Louis Vuitton.

3: The will of the richest 1% should not dictate how we treat wildlife

Bolstered up by the already legal commercialised slaughter of native crocodiles, some politicians, like Bob Katter, want it to be legal for crocodiles to be hunted like trophies, too. He wrongly claims, as with factory-farming, that trophy-hunting will help protect the species by bringing money into the economy. Similarly ludicrous claims of ‘conservation led’ trophy-hunting are made overseas, when other apex predators, like lions, are slaughtered.

Today, shockingly, it is legal to spend tens of thousands of dollars to go on a ‘safari’ and watch a crocodile be shot by a ‘professional’, and then spend money to buy their skull and products made from their skin. The distinction is simply just who pulls the trigger – in this case, supposedly not the tourist.

Similarly, only the richest people can afford crocodile skin products, sold for shockingly high prices. A bag from Hermès, made from the skin of a slaughtered crocodile (possibly from a farm exposed in this campaign), is sold for up to $250,000AUD.

No one should have the right to buy someone’s life, or to pay a preposterous amount of money to treat our native wildlife with disrespect. Crocodiles are not bags, not trophies, not belts.

A male crocodile gives a piggyback ride to his lifelong female partner.
Credit: 
Vladimir Dinets, research assistant professor in psychology, who studied crocodiles for a decade.

4: Animals are living beings, not materials

Did you know that crocodiles enjoy playing together, splashing each other and even offering piggybacks? Or that crocodiles have highly developed social lives, and strong maternal bonds? Crocodiles are intelligent animals with the same capacity to feel both pleasure and pain as any other animal, humans included.

No animal deserves a life of confinement, and every animal, every living being, has the right to their own personal autonomy and life. Their skins are not ours to wear or use as a material, and their lives are not ours to take.

Crocodiles are brutally slaughtered on Australian crocodile farms. Image: Farm Transparency Project.

5: Animal slaughter harms the mental health of workers

Studies have found that slaughtering animals for a living has serious mental health risks. PITS, or perpetration-induced traumatic stress, is similar to the more commonly known PTSD, with a fundamental difference; the mental suffering comes from having committed violent acts, not being the victim of them.

While crocodile farms specifically have not been studied in relation to this, it would be unsurprising if, in a country of people who generally love animals, people suffered when their work demanded they take animal’s lives.

Crocodile in nature.

6: Crocodile conservation and community safety can coexist

After crocodile hunting for skins nearly wiped out the species, protected populations were recovering, only to be endangered again. People began shooting crocodiles because they were eating farmed animals, and sometimes attacking people. Today, you can still get permission to kill crocodiles if they kill cattle who are being raised for slaughter by humans.

There is fear that a healthy native crocodile population will be a risk to us, but because of our effective education programs, Australia has the highest saltwater crocodile population globally, and low fatality rates.

We need to protect our communities from harm, and we need to protect our native wildlife. Farming and hunting crocodiles is not the solution, and should not be seen as such. Culls have been found to be ineffective for community protection from crocodiles. Instead, effective community awareness and education programs, like Be Crocwise, should be further supported.

Crocodiles and their natural habitat should be protected, too. If the homes of crocodiles are protected and lesser disturbed, there will likely be less attacks.

Faux crocodile skin products. Image: Collective Fashion Justice

7: Farming crocodiles to produce leather from their skins is not sustainable

Farming animals is not sustainable, and crocodiles are no exception.

Factory-farmed crocodiles are fed other factory-farmed animals, like chickens. As with raising cattle for meat and leather, this is a system that is not only cruel, but inefficient and wasteful. Grain must be fed to chickens, who are fed to crocodiles, who become skin and meat products.

Instead, we could be eating plant-based foods directly, and producing leather alternative materials from plant sources, like pineapple leaves, or using synthetics. A surprise to many, even the most common synthetic leather alternative, polyurethane, has half the environmental impact to produce than conventional leather.

Further, the skins of ‘living dinosaur’ crocodiles are extremely tough and of course will rot, so after they are slaughtered, their skins are tanned with chromium overseas. Chromium is a toxic carcinogen, and leather tanneries around the world often pollute the substance into local waterways.

 8: There are plenty of sustainable, cruelty-free alternatives

Even if you want to wear something that is texturally like crocodile skin, you can do so without paying for an ancient, native animal to be factory-farmed and slaughtered.

There are plenty of vegan, ethically made crocodile-style embossed bags, wallets, shoes, belts and other fashion products.  

Author:
Emma Hakansson

Emma Hakansson is the founder of Collective Fashion Justice, which works for a fashion system that upholds total ethics, by prioritising the life of all animals; human and non-human, and the planet. She is also a writer, and consults in the fashion industry to help brands transition away from animal materials.