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Hermès muse Jane Birkin has seen PETA's campaign alleging that cruel methods are used at crocodile and alligator farms that sell to the brand, and now she wants nothing to do with her namesake Birkin bags if they are made with crocodile skin. Agence France-Presse reports that Birkin released a statement saying, "Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermes handbags carrying my name... I have asked Hermes to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place."
Called "fashion's ultimate status symbol" by some, the Hermès Birkin bag came into existence in 1984 after the actress sat next to Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London. Birkin ended up sketching her ideas for a handbag on a napkin, according to the BBC, which is a pretty charming origin story for a bag. Prices for Hermès's most prized item are astronomical, and the obsession over joining the Birkin club pushes fans of the bag to go to crazy extremes to buy one.
Crocodile Birkins in particular are incredibly valuable, like the one valued last year by 1stdibs at $432,000. Last month, PETA called on Hermès to stop manufacturing and selling exotic-skin products, alleging terrible conditions and inhumane treatment like live animals being sawed open at factory farms that sell to the brand. "PETA's exposé of Hermes suppliers in the US and Africa reveals that every Hermès watchband or Birkin bag means a living, feeling being experienced a miserable life and a ghastly death," PETA's president Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement. "People pay thousands of dollars for such accessories, but the reptiles on these cruel and disgusting factory farms are paying the real price."
Update: Vogue UK reports that Hermès issued a statement in reponse to Jane Birkin's request. "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," the Hermès statement reads. "Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast."
The brand also denied that the farm featured in PETA's campaign belongs to them, or that the farm's skins are used to make their Birkin bags. Hermès said in a statement "an investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned."
The statement continues: "Hermès imposes on its partners the highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles. For more than 10 years, we have organised monthly visits to our suppliers." Hermès maintains that it doesn't use cruel methods to harvest crocodile and alligator skins, saying "We control their practices and their conformity with slaughter standards established by veterinary experts and by the Fish and Wildlife (a federal American organisation for the protection of nature) and with the rules established under the aegis of the UNO, by the Washington Convention of 1973 which defines the protection of endangered species."