Hermes to Probe, Punish ‘Cruelty’ to Crocodiles Used for Handbags

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress Birkin asks Hermes to remove her name from croc bag.

The actor, singer and style icon publicly asked the luxury fashion brand to rename the ‘Birkin’ following her concerns over animal cruelty in producing the bags, according to The Independent.Hermes International SCA said it will penalize any breach of its animal welfare code after Jane Birkin voiced concern over crocodile slaughter methods in the luxury industry.

British singer Jane Birkin has asked luxury manufacturer Hermes to remove her name from its crocodile-skin handbag after learning of the “cruel” methods used to make the iconic accessory. The undercover video by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) exposed the crocodile and alligator farms in Zimbabwe and Texas — that were allegedly supplying Hermès with the leather for their bags — prompted the 68-year-old actor to take the decision.PHOTO: FASHIONTIMES The video reveals cruel treatment to crocodiles and their poor living conditions. Costing tens of thousands of euros, the Birkin bag is a symbol of wealth and is much-loved by celebrities, but the version made out of crocodile skin has attracted the ire of animal rights activists. “Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermes handbags carrying my name… Birkin said she had signed actor Joaquin Phoenix’s Mercy For Animals petition to “shed exotic skins from your wardrobe” in protest against the “millions of reptiles slaughtered each year and turned into shoes, handbags, belts and other accessories”. I have asked Hermes to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place,” Birkin, 68, said in a statement.

Birkin’s statement comes after a report and video by PETA found that “crocodiles and alligators are packed into filthy pools or concrete pits by the thousands – and all are killed for their skins before reaching adulthood”. Birkin bags, the company’s most iconic product, account for about 15 percent of Hermes’s sales, according to Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas in London. The luxury brand also said that an investigation was being conducted into the farm’s practices and that “any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned”. Hermes said that it’s investigating the Texas farm, which it doesn’t own, and that crocodile skins it gets from that supplier aren’t used for Birkin bags. The bag has since become a celebrities’ favourite, beloved of Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and characters in the popular Sex and the City television series, among others.

Customers can obtain one either by putting their name on a waiting list or by paying hefty fees to specialised buyers who scout for the bags on their behalf. The crocodile version, which costs at least ₣33,000 euros (Dh132,000), is one of Hermes’s best-known products, along with its silk scarves and purses named after Grace Kelly. A fuchsia Hermes crocodile Birkin bag with a diamond-studded clasp and lock set a record as the most expensive handbag ever sold at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last month, fetching US$222,000 (S$302,950). Since then, it’s become so iconic that defacing a Birkin bag has become a pastime for irreverent celebrities, from Kanye West to Lady Gaga and even Jane Birkin herself. But the cherished handbags recently became the focus of an expose by rights group Peta on crocodile farms from Texas to Zimbabwe, where the reptiles are allegedly crammed into barren concrete pits before being “cruelly hacked” to death. “At just one year old, alligators are shot with a captive-bolt gun or crudely cut into while they’re still conscious and able to feel pain,” Peta said. “The investigator saw alligators continuing to move their legs and tails in the bleed rack and in bloody ice bins several minutes after their attempted slaughter,” it added.

The crocodile Birkin and the Kelly bag, named after actress Grace Kelly, are among the most sought-after luxury goods – even though the starting retail price is more than 20,000 euros ($22,096) – partly because shops routinely run out of them. One does not simply buy a Birkin, which retails for anywhere between $13,000 to $100,000, an interested party must have their name added to the infamous Hermes wait list.

Hermes said it imposed on its suppliers the highest ethical standards regarding the treatment of crocodiles and for more than a decade, had conducted monthly checks on them to ensure that they were respected. In a previous response to the controversy over its crocodile-skin bags, the company said all the farms it works with respect the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and that an audit was underway in one of the farms fingered by Peta. Birkin is perhaps best known as the former wife of late French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, who penned some of the songs that catapulted her to fame. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

The former Desperate Housewife fired the starting gun on Instagram, blasting Fairfax Media entertainment writer Jenna Clarke over this column which accused Longoria of marketing budget eyewear despite being someone who “doesn’t wear spectacles”. Longoria noted that she first realised her sight was deteriorating while studying for her master’s degree in 2013 and as evidence posted a triptych of pictures of her bespectacled self. “We have plenty of photos to show you of me USING READING GLASSES like when I testified in Congress for Women and Small Business in 2013 as I had to READ some documents in front of me,” she wrote.

Longoria also took the opportunity to deliver a lecture on journalistic procedure, including a dismissive barb at Clarke for being “just a Lifestyle journalist”. “Next time you want to write an article calling someone ‘shameful’ why don’t you do your research because that is your responsibility as a ‘journalist’,” she wrote. The ensuing social media storm invited commentary from Longoria’s legion of fans, including one particularly active young admirer calling himself “Luis Longoria”.

In the column, Clarke noted that “unfortunately, this shameful shilling isn’t contained to Hollywood”, and pointed out other examples of celebrities who had signed up to questionable endorsement contracts. Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sun-Herald and this website, added a clarification to the online version of the story, noting that it had been “amended to include Longoria’s statement that she has worn reading glasses since 2013″.

The trans-Pacific tiff came to the attention of other media outlets including Mamamia, Sky News, Mashable and Buzzfeed, all of which published stories on the saga. Best known for her portrayal of Gabrielle Solis on Desperate Housewives, Longoria has in recent years been an executive producer on Devious Maids, a comedy/drama about a group of Latina staff working in exclusive Beverly Hills homes.

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