Hermès is one of the biggest names in high-end fashion, and could soon be operating one of the biggest crocodile farms in Australia. The brand wants to house up to 50,000 saltwater crocodiles at the facility, The Guardian reports.
Each of them will be bred and slaughtered for their skin, then turned into handbags and shoes.
Several other crocodile farms are in operation in Australia’s Northern Territory, now known as a global supplier of crocodile skins.
“Hermès acquired the former melon and banana farm at Lambells Lagoon through PRI Farming, a foreign-controlled company that boasts a number of key executives from the French fashion house,” Vice reports. “The director of PRI is one Mick Burns, who is among the biggest players in the NT’s lucrative crocodile industry.”
Burns, a noted investor in these farms, is working to turn the former fruit farm into Hermès crocodile breeding ground, featuring “an egg incubator laboratory, a hatchery, and growing pens, as well as wastewater treatment plants and a solar farm,” according to the BBC.
According the NT’s Environmental Protection Authority, Hermès’ farm would start with a staff of 30, overseeing 4,000 crocodiles, which they would breed to produce the planned 50,000 in 5 years.
With approval of the NT government in hand, construction is right around the corner, but animal advocates are fighting back.
Nicola Beynon, of Humane Society International, contends that many fashion brands already avoid materials made from exotic animal skins as per updated animal welfare policies. Chanel, Mulberry, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger have, to name a few.
“Consumers and fashion houses are walking away from animal cruelty as fast as they can,” Beynon said. “It seems foolish to be investing in an industry that is no longer fashionable.”
“Wildlife experts warn that the international trade in the skins of exotic animals for luxury fashion promotes the spread of zoonotic diseases, fuelling the risk of more pandemics like the current one,” warns PETA Australia. “Given the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Northern Territory’s valuable tourism industry, it’s unconscionable that the territory’s government would approve plans for this crocodile farm and risk becoming home to the next potential disease outbreak.”
According to ABC, the 2018/2019 season saw over 24,600 crocodile skins exported from the NT. The crocodile farming industry is worth an estimated $26.7 million to the NT economy, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). However, a 2017 report commissioned from Ernst & Young by the NT government placed a much higher number on the industry, estimating its worth at $106m.
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