Hermès vows to protect welfare of crocodiles

Actor's complaints about the conditions at farms that harvest crocodile skins were raised after she watched a PETA video

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The luxury handbag maker Hermès has resolved an argument with actress and singer Jane Birkin over its treatment of crocodiles.

The brand yesterday said that a request from Ms Birkin to remove her name from its crocodile-skin handbag has now been dropped. She had made the initial request in July after learning of the methods used to make the famous accessory, which is popular with celebrities such as singers Lady Gaga and Rita Ora.

Ms Birkin’s complaints about the conditions at farms that harvest crocodile skins for fashion products were raised after she watched a video released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The video depicts farmed crocodiles crammed into concrete pits and some of the animals being hacked and skinned alive.

Hermès yesterday said it had identified an “isolated irregularity” in the slaughter process at a crocodile farm in Texas. But an audit in July showed the location was in compliance with the group’s standards.

The company warned that it would immediately end relations with the farm if there was any further irregularity.

In relation to video footage purporting to be from a Zimbabwe crocodile farm, Hermès stressed it was recorded before any partnership had been established with the farm. Following an inspection of the site, a report concluded that farming and slaughter best practices were respected at the farm.

The company said: “Hermès reasserts its commitment to implement best practice in the farming of crocodiles, working with professional crocodile farmers and their attached local communities. This is in strictest compliance with international regulations.”

It added that it is making it mandatory for partner farmers to adopt its farming charter. “Jane Birkin has advised us she is satisfied by the measures taken,” it said.

The actress agreed to lend her name to the Birkin bag after sharing a flight with Jean-Louis Dumas, the late head of Hermès, in the 1980s.

The bag is sought-after in the luxury goods market and prices typically start from €20,000 (£14,600).

Its popularity saw a Hermès Birkin with diamonds set a record in Hong Kong in June as the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction. It fetched HK$1.72m (£146,000).