An expose by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) of the cruelty involved in killing young crocodiles and alligators for their skins has persuaded British model and designer Jane Birkin to ask design group Hermes to change the name of its crocodile-skin Birkin handbag.

The bag was launched by Hermes in 1984 and named after the Sixties singer for giving the company the original idea for its practical design in 1981 and since then has become a big hit with the rich and fashion-conscious such as Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Moss, Julia Roberts and others who have paid up to £100,000 and beyond for their ostentatious symbols of wealth, generating hundreds of millions for Hermes. Predictably the design is also one of the world’s most widely-copied, perhaps for those with more sense than money, and who don’t want to join the six-year waiting list for one made by Hermes.

However, as PETA point out the real cost is paid by the hundreds of thousands of crocodiles on the factory farms in Texas and Zimbabwe that supply Hermes, some of which were filmed by the charity being reared unnaturally in over-crowded concrete pits before being sawn open and left to bleed to death, or clumsily killed in other cruel ways, with three butchered animals making one Birkin bag. The animals, which can live in the wild for up to eighty years are slaughtered at three, when their skins have reached an economic size for Hermes bags and watchstraps.

The ugly truths behind the accessory for beautiful people has spurred Birkin to write to Hermes stating: “Having been alerted to the cruel practices endured by crocodiles during their slaughter for the production of Hermes bags carrying my name I have asked Hermes Group to rename the Birkin until better practices responding to international norms can be implemented for the production of this bag”.

Since then Hermes have claimed that Birkin has been satisfied with their reassurances that the cruelty filmed by PETA and available on their website was “an isolated irregularity”.

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