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With support from ‘wildlife CONServationists’, new Australian farm to hold 50,000 crocodiles and supply skins to make shoes

International Union for CONSERVATION OF NATURE: 'Fashion houses have been mercilessly attacked by animal rights activists. Hermès is trying to do the right thing.'

GRAHAM READFERN: The high-end French fashion brand Hermès wants to build one of Australia’s biggest crocodile farms in the Northern Territory that would hold up to 50,000 saltwater crocodiles to be turned into luxury goods such as handbags and shoes… The NT government has already granted development approval for the project, with documents showing the farm would include an egg incubator laboratory, a hatchery, and growing pens, as well as wastewater treatment plants and a solar farm.

According to documents submitted to the territory’s Environmental Protection Authority [EPA], the farm would employ 30 people and build from an initial 4,000 crocodiles to 50,000… An EPA statement to the Guardian said the project had been granted environmental approval, and that PRI had also indicated it would apply for a wildlife trade permit… But the proposal has come under fire from animal welfare groups, who say other fashion brands have moved away from using exotic animal skins on cruelty grounds. Advocates told Guardian Australia they had concerns about the welfare of the crocodiles, and that farming animals for luxury goods was “no longer fashionable”…

Nicola Beynon, of Humane Society International, said brands including Chanel, Mulberry and the owners of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger had adopted animal welfare policies “against using exotic animal skins such as crocodile”. “Consumers and fashion houses are walking away from animal cruelty as fast as they can,” she said. “It seems foolish to be investing in an industry that is no longer fashionable”… A 2019 corporate social responsibility report from Hermès said the company owned three crocodile farms and “two hide processing and inspection sites” in Australia…

However, Prof Grahame Webb, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature crocodile specialist group, told the Guardian crocodile farming had helped fund conservation efforts in the region. Webb said fashion houses had been “mercilessly attacked” by animal rights activists, but he said the companies had a “good story to tell”. “[Those companies] have to get more and more control over their supply chain so that they can guarantee the highest standards.

“Hermès is a very conservative company – it’s them trying to do the right thing. Australia has an excellent reputation for its crocodile management program worldwide.” Webb said the scale of the new proposal from Burns suggested it would be able to produce about 15,000 crocodile skins a year. The harvesting of eggs from the wild population was sustainable, he said…

In 2015, the Northern Territory government developed a strategy to expand the region’s crocodile farming industry. That report said that in 2015 that Australia accounted for 60% of world trade in saltwater crocodile skins, with the territory responsible for two thirds of traded skins… A 2017 report commissioned from Ernst & Young by the NT government estimated the crocodile farming industry was worth $106m to the territory’s economy. SOURCE…

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