Crocodylus porosus are part of the reptilian family, native to Australia. These ancient, dinosaur-esque animals, who can live longer than 70 years, have fallen into the consumer-based realm, becoming part of the food, fashion and entertainment industries, which kill them off at anywhere between 2-4 years. With an emphasis on profit, the lives of the crocodiles within these industries are short and isolated.

History & Lifestyle

Crocodiles, who are natural icons in Australia, have existed on earth for over 100 million years. As opportunistic predators, they use their physical make-up, like their muscular tail, to their advantage when lunging out of the water at prey animals. When comparing the strength of a crocodile bite to that of a human, a human bite exerts 0.02% of the crocodile’s incredibly powerful 2.2kg of pressure per square inch.

Image: Farm Transparency Project

Aside from the obvious sharp teeth and slightly intimidating appearance, crocodiles are far more than what meets the eye. Scientific research has shown that crocodiles engage in playful behaviours, such as those that are larger piggybacking smaller friends or family members, sticking their snouts into the water and snapping, and even carrying flowers around in their mouth. 

Farming

The once free-roaming lives that crocodiles had for hundreds of thousands of years was ended by human-intervention. Between 1945 and 1970, humans hunted crocodiles because of the danger they posed, and for their skin. In 1971 they became a protected species. But just how far does the term “protection” extend? 

For just over 50 years, commercial farms with the sole purpose of farming crocodiles for their skin and flesh have operated in Australia. The Edward River Mission in QLD was the first of its kind, opening in 1969. The first commercial farm in the Northern Territory opened in 1979, operating under the Northern Territory Crocodile Industry Management Program. The Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia home all crocodile farms currently operating in Australia today, with the most notable farms being Crocodylus Park, Darwin Crocodile Farms, Coolibah Crocodile Farm, Elizabeth Valley Crocodile Farm, Janamba Crocodile Farm, Lagoon Crocodile Farm and Koorana.

Breeding

After crocodiles have mated and the female is pregnant, she then builds a nest around 1 metre high with her feet, which keeps the nest from getting flooded during the wet season and keeps the incubation temperature right. At this point, the eggs are taken by humans and placed into an incubator. The eggs are taken from nests of both captive and wild crocodiles, and a small number are taken from the wild after hatching. It takes around 86 days for an egg to hatch. 

Table: Wildlife Trade Management Plan, Crocodile Farming in the Northern Territory 2021 – 2025

Hatchlings are then housed in a hatchery for around 6 months to a year, until they reach 70-90cm and can move to housing areas that will see them to the end of their lives.

Housing

In Australia, farmed crocodiles are housed in Grow Out Buildings with others, or in small concrete isolation pens. Isolation can be used to ensure no scratches or damage is done to their skin, as perfect skin is paramount for their profitable use in high-end fashion.

Image: Farm Transparency Project

There’s an emphasis on ensuring the ‘fast growth’ of crocodiles, as this leads to a quicker slaughter process where their bodies can then derive profit.

Slaughter

Once their belly skin measures a minimum of 35cm, they are “harvested”. This is typically at age 2 or 3, when they’re around 1.5-2m in length. The slaughter process occurs over several acts. Firstly, the crocodiles are electrocuted so they can be taken to the area for slaughter. They then have their neck cut to sever their spinal cord, followed by a screwdriver being shoved into their head to “pith” their brain. Their lifeless bodies are then hung up to bleed out for around a day. Their belly skins are then cut off and flesh taken to be sold as meat.

Skins

Typically, the skins are shipped overseas where they are tanned & turned into accessories – handbags, purses, watch bands and belts to name a few.

Image: A crocodile skin for sale at Crocodile Darwin

High Welfare Claims

Director of Crocodylus Park in NT, Professor Grahame Webb, says that most 3 metre plus crocodiles in the wild have injuries such as scarring and missing limbs, claiming farmed crocodiles “enjoyed a better life in captivity”. As well as this, he claims there is a financial incentive of keeping crocodiles in good condition, as one scratch or bite mark can decrease the value of their skin by 50%. These supposed positive outcomes for crocodiles leave them isolated, without natural stimulation or the ability to behave naturally, and cut their lives short by 95%. The bias in arguments from those associated with the industry cannot be ignored, regardless of qualification levels.

Even though the Code of Practice clearly lacks the care and understanding of crocodiles that it should have, penalties for breaching the Code are as insignificant as warning letters, caution notices, infringement notices, permit cancellations or non-renewals, and finally prosecution. 

Conservation Lies

With even the IUCN encouraging using crocodiles ‘sustainably’ for their skin and meat, it’s difficult for consumers to identify the issues with ‘conservation’ in relation to crocodile farming.

The commercial crocodile industry argues that by putting a dollar value on the lives of crocodiles, through the harvesting of wild eggs, the community is more likely to value them, and consequently, less likely to demand culling.

However, Australia has a large number of wild saltwater crocodiles and a low human fatality rate, not because of a commercial farming industry, but because of community education programs such as Be Crocwise.

The idea that in order to conserve a species they must be farmed is absurd. We would never accept elephants being farmed for their tusks, so why should crocodiles be any different?

Environmental Damage

The creation and maintenance of crocodile farms involves the clearing of land and the occupation of substantial areas of land. Read more about the issues related to land clearing due to the animal industrial complex here.

Export

Due to the lack of tanning facilities in Australia (currently only one), most crocodile skins are shipped overseas for tanning. Some of the largest importers of crocodile skin are France and Japan, with lengths of travel around 15,150km and 6850km respectively. Carbon emissions are a clear concern here.

Chemicals

The process of tanning itself involves a number of chemicals and pollutants, which directly affects workers, as well as populations local to the facility.

Human Impact

As is the same for most, if not all, areas of the animal industrial complex, humans are also negatively affected by the crocodile industry. 

Exposure to chemicals and waste products

As mentioned in environmental damage, chemicals are used to treat the skins in tanneries. Not only does the environment suffer, but workers within tanneries directly interact with the process and materials. This poses serious health risks.

Dangerous encounters

For workers involved in the raising of the animals, there is always a risk of being attacked or otherwise injured in their duties. For example, crocodile attacks have been known to occur during the wild harvesting of eggs. Further, slaughter and live animal processing are known to be some of the most high risk jobs for injuries, due to the nature of the work and tools that are used. Read more about the harms to slaughterhouse workers in the animal industrial complex here.

Conclusion

Farming crocodiles is inherently cruel, and serves one purpose only – for human profitability. Bags can be made without animal skin, food can be made and eaten without harming individuals, so why are we still doing this?

Author:
Kindness Project

Kindness Project is an animal rights organisation that has been born out of the belief that in order to dismantle the animal industrial complex (AIC) it is imperative that our advocacy is inclusive of all those who are harmed by it.