The Birkin Bag is synonymous with "status." It's an exceptionally expensive handbag with a waitlist even longer than its price-tag. The bag was created 31 years ago and was named in honour of model and singer Jane Birkin. It's coveted by many and has a firm place in pop culture. It's also made using horribly inhumane practices.
PETA investigated the way the pricey bags are made, specifically the Birkin Croco. They found that the alligators and crocodiles used to make the luxury bags were treated inhumanely while alive, kept in crowded concrete pits or stale, musty pools for years at a time. They are killed equally as crudely, with some still conscious even minutes afterwards. Their results were posted online and included a video posted to their site (caution: the video is graphic and not at all safe for work). The investigation included farms in Texas and Zimbabwe.
*GRAPHIC MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS VIDEO*
When Birkin, the bags' namesake was alerted to those practices, she released a statement through the AFP:
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.
Hermes, the maker of the famous bag, addressed the controversy and tried to distance themselves from the practices depicted in Texas in their own statement:
Jane Birkin has expressed her concerns regarding practices for slaughtering crocodiles. Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years. Hermes respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast.
An investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned. Hermes specifies that this farm does not belong to them and that the crocodile skins supplied are not used for the fabrication of Birkin bags.
The statement does not discuss or even acknowledge, the concerns or possible violations with respect to the Zimbabwe farm.
The statement goes on to discuss the high "standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles" Hermes claims to impose on their partners, and includes "monthly visits to [their] suppliers" where the company controls "their practices and their conformity with slaughter standards".
Should luxury trump humane treatment? Let us know what you think in the comments.