Fashion Don'ts: Alligators Allegedly Tortured Before Being Killed and Turned Into Luxury Handbags [UPDATED]

Activist group goes undercover to document what it says is abuse of alligators and crocodiles in Africa and Texas.

(Photo: PETA)

Jun 24, 2015· 2 MIN READ
David Kirby has been a professional journalist for 25 years. His third book, Death at Seaworld, was published in 2012.

Farms in Zimbabwe and Texas are abusing alligators and crocodiles destined to become luxury handbags that fetch upwards of $80,000 each, a report released Wednesday by animal welfare activists alleged.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent investigators to work undercover at two reptile farms owned by Padenga Holdings in Zimbabwe and also sent one to Lone Star Alligator Farms in Winnie, Texas. Padenga bought a 50 percent stake in Lone Star in 2012. The farms supply alligator and crocodile skins to a tannery owned by the French fashion giant Hermès, which turns them into handbags, watchbands, and other fashion goods, stated PETA. Hermès crocodile handbags, which require two or three skins to make, can cost as much as $79,500.

At each facility the investigators documented the animals being kept in inhumane conditions, along with gruesome slaughter practices, the group contends. Video footage from the investigations has been posted at PETA’s website.

Neither Padenga, Lone Star, nor Hermès responded to requests for comment. But according to Padenga’s website, its animals are treated humanely.

“Padenga’s farming operations are focused towards the physical and psychological wellbeing of its livestock, with the production of healthy, stress-free animals being viewed as one of the keys to the Company’s success,” the website states.

In Texas, PETA’s undercover investigator “found alligators kept in fetid water and dank, dark sheds without sunshine, fresh air, clean water, or even basic medical care,” PETA said in a statement.

In Zimbabwe, PETA alleged, living conditions for crocodiles are little better at facilities owned by Padenga, which supplies nearly 85 percent of Nile crocodile skins to luxury brands globally.

The PETA video shows concrete pits at a farm in Kariba, Zimbabwe, filled with as many as 220 crocodiles each. In 2014, the facility slaughtered some 43,000 animals.

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“Tens of thousands of crocodiles are confined to concrete pits from birth to slaughter,” PETA said. “They are deprived of the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors including digging tunnels, playing, protecting their young, or using tools to hunt as they would do in nature.”

Nile crocodiles can live up to 80 years in the wild, but according to PETA, at the Zimbabwe farms the animals are dispatched at about age three.

Among the slaughtering techniques observed by the investigators, alligators were shot with a captive-bolt gun or “crudely cut into while they’re still conscious and able to feel pain,” PETA said. Its investigator observed workers cutting into the necks of live alligators, inserting metal rods into their skulls to “scramble their brains,” and dislocating the animals’ vertebrae, according to the report.

“These animals have sensory organs all over their skin which allows them to feel the tiniest ripple in the water,” said PETA campaigner Ashley Byrne. “So you can imagine the kind of pain they go through when they are mutilated this way.”

So, Why Should You Care? All of the animals PETA encountered in its investigation were farm-raised, although 75 percent of the crocodile eggs in Zimbabwe were collected from the wild, according to PETA spokesperson Shakira Croce.

American alligators and African crocodiles are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Animals included in this appendix can be farmed and traded with the proper permits.

“Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction,” Croce said. “But they may become so unless trade is closely controlled.”

UPDATED June 25, 2015—1:32 p.m.

Hermès issued this statement in response to the PETA investigation, reported The New York Times:

Hermès has established a strong network of farm partners to secure its supply in the highest skin quality. All our skins used by Hermès are sourced from farms where Hermès demands the best farming conditions, which conform to the international regulations.

These farms respect the rules established by the Washington Convention (1972), which defines the parameters of the protection of specific species. These rules, established under the aegis of the U.N.O., were beneficial for the protection of crocodiles: These farms reintroduce into the wild a part of their farm breeding program, which therefore assists in regulating the local ecosystems.

Hermès is continuously verifying all procedures. Any nonconforming parties will be dealt with accordingly and will be sanctioned.