Hermes to probe, punish 'cruelty' to crocs used for handbags

PARIS, France – Hermes said Wednesday, July 29 it was probing claims of cruelty at crocodile and alligator farms that supply the French fashion house with skins for its luxury handbags and accessories.

British singer Jane Birkin on Tuesday, July 28 asked Hermes to remove her name from the iconic crocodile skin Birkin bag after rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published an expose on "cruel" treatment of the animals at farms in Texas and Zimbabwe.

"Hermes respects and shares her emotion and was also shocked by the recently published images," the company said in a statement.

PETA filmed disturbing images of crocodiles in Zimbabwe and alligators in Texas – whose skin is used to make watch-straps – in which they live 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.

Hermes said it was investigating the farm in Texas.

"Any proven negligence will be corrected and punished," Hermes said, highlighting that it does not own the farm and that the alligator skins are not used to make the Birkin bag.

The manufacturer added that it imposed the "highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles" on its partners.

Hermes also said Birkin's request did not affect "the friendship and trust" between her and the house.

The bag was designed for Birkin in 1984, after a chance meeting of the singer and the then president of Hermes, Jean-Louis Dumas. A young mother at the time, she complained she could not find a bag that was both elegant and practical.

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.

The crocodile version, which costs at least 33,000 euros ($36,000), is one of Hermes's best-known products, along with its silk scarves and purses named after Grace Kelly.

The handbag, which also comes in cow, calf or ostrich leather, is made entirely by hand in France. Each bag takes 18 to 25 hours to complete. –