The exotic skin trade is a bloody business indeed, and new footage supplied by Farm Transparency Project to Kindness Project has shown even the supposed highest welfare standards in the world cannot protect animals who are viewed and used as commodities from suffering and cruelty. The distressing vision reveals the shocking happenings on Hermès owned and controlled Australian crocodile farms. This should be a catalyst for Hermès to finally make the move away from this outdated and barbaric ‘material’, which is produced at the expense of thousands of animals.

Hermès owned and controlled farms are driving horrific cruelty to the iconic Australian saltwater crocodile

Footage released by Farm Transparency Project has revealed horrific treatment of animals living on Hermès owned crocodile farms, which boast the highest welfare standards in the world. The facilities housing these poor creatures resemble nothing of their natural habitat; instead, crocodiles are kept in barren, concrete pens where they have little more room than the length of their body to move around in. In nature, crocodiles are known to regularly travel 10km from their home; these factory farms sadly deny them nearly all that comes natural to them.

A saltwater crocodile in an Hermès owned and controlled farm. Image: Farm Transparency Project.

Unsurprisingly, the slaughter of these ancient animals is nothing short of horrific. They are electrocuted and dragged from their pens while their bodies convulse. A captive bolt gun is then shot through the top of their heads, after which their spine is severed with a knife and a screwdriver is shoved into the incision wound, intended to scramble their brain. Footage captured some crocodiles moving over a minute after this process had been undertaken, suggesting sensibility to pain due to negligent slaughtering practices. 

Crocodiles are slaughtered at just two to three years old. Three to four crocodiles are needed to make just one Hermès Birkin bag. Image: Farm Transparency Project.

Hermès’ Managing Director and Deputy Director of Industrial Affairs both sit on the board of PRI Farming, alongside notorious crocodile farmer, Mick Burns. The company, set up to ensure Hermès have a continuous supply of skins for their luxury products, owns Janamba Crocodile farm and Lagoon crocodile farm where much of this despicable treatment of crocodiles was uncovered. PRI Farming is set to build a new crocodile facility with a capacity to hold 50,000 crocodiles, which would make it the largest of its kind in Australia. Bees Creek Crocodile Farm is also intrinsically linked to Hermès, with the Hermès Managing Director sitting on the board of Porosus Pty Ltd, the company that owns the farm. The fourth farm exposed in Farm Transparency Project’s footage is Crocodylus Park, a farm found to supply both Hermès and Louis Vuitton.

The conservation myth

The crocodile farming industry has relentlessly promoted itself as a valuable contributor to the conservation of Australia’s precious saltwater crocodiles. However, this insistence has been found to be little more than a clever ethics-washing, marketing ploy aimed at justifying this cruel industry. 

Between the 1940s and 1970s, the Australian saltwater crocodile was driven to the point of extinction through excessive hunting, mostly for their skins to be turned into luxury products for the world’s elite. For this reason, in 1971 laws were introduced to protect the species and outlaw hunting them. By 1978, prior to the introduction of their farming in the Northern Territory, crocodile populations had increased sixfold, from 5,000 to 30,000, recovering due to the ceasing of their hunting. 

Crocodiles were hunted nearly to the point of extinction.

In the 1980s, following some fatal and nonfatal interactions with crocodiles in the NT, there were renewed public calls for crocodile culls to occur. The government used this as an opportunity to supposedly incentivise their conservation through wild egg harvesting – so that eggs could be taken from the wild and raised in factory farms. It was argued that the commercial value of wild populations would equate to a desire to protect them. However, public awareness measures would be perfectly adequate at maintaining public support for the conservation program without factory farming. Australia has the highest population of saltwater crocodiles in the world and yet, low fatality rates due to effective public education programs teaching the community about appropriate safety measures. The industry used the public’s fear as an opportunity to objectify our native wildlife for the purpose of commerce.

The Northern Territory Crocodile Management Program explicitly states that the purpose of the crocodile industry is for the “investment, commercial activity and employment generated through crocodiles”, and that the industry’s vision relates to “the reliable production of….skins” and “to grow its role as a significant contributor to the economic and social prosperity of the Northern Territory”. There is no suggestion that it has anything to do with conservation. The industry is simply satisfied that their harvest of wild eggs hasn’t been “detrimental to the recovery of the species”, and while some proponents may argue that the harvesting is important for keeping the population to a manageable level, the industry acknowledges that most of the eggs taken wouldn’t have grown into adult crocodiles anyway. There is no suggestion the industry as a whole has been positive for the recovery of the species, only that it hasn’t been negative.

Crocodiles in the wild can travel up to 30 kilometres in just one day.

Ultimately what has led to the recovery and continued protection of this species has nothing to do with their factory farming and everything to do with them no longer being hunted, combined with increased public awareness on crocodile safety measures.

Hermès luxury products are created for the richest 1% in the world

Hermès crocodile products are undoubtedly viewed as status symbols, only to be afforded by the richest within society. It takes three to four crocodiles to create a Hermès bag – three to four living, breathing sentient individuals, reduced to just one handbag. It is entirely unacceptable that the desires of a wealthy few dictate or justify the unconscionable treatment of native wildlife. Hermès crocodile skin Birkin bags have sold for more than $250,000 – enough money to feed approximately 20 average Australian households for one year. Crocodiles are living beings who are capable of experiencing suffering; they have a right to exist in this world as much as any other human or non-human animal, and we must protect them from being viewed as mere commodities to appease the elite.

Birkin bags can sell for more than $250,000.

Join us in telling Hermès enough is enough – luxury fashion and status symbols will never justify the commodification and suffering of animals. An increasing number of brands are moving away from cruel animal-based materials in favour of innovative, more sustainable materials that are kinder to native wildlife and our planet alike.

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.