Lots of time is spent waiting. Whether it is as simple as waiting for the barista to make your morning coffee or as important as waiting for the moment when you’ll meet your future spouse, people spend hours on end waiting for things. Hermès, in all of its luxurious glory, has forced consumers to do the same, obviously to a greater extreme.
For over 30 years, Hermès has been creating a highly desirable and exclusive product, made only for those who can afford it. The catch? Consumers and celebrities have been known to wait for months—if not years—to own the product. There even used to be a waitlist, though the brand says it no longer exists. Now, interested buyers are encouraged to “establish a relationship with a salesperson” who can help them try to get a Birkin.
The Birkin bag, first designed in 1984 after British actress and singer Jane Birkin met Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane, is easily the world’s most expensive and luxurious handbag.
Handcrafted from materials such as ostrich, crocodile and lizard, each bag is unique. It takes two to three crocodiles to make each individual Birkin Croco bag, which typically range in price from $10,500 to $150,000. Now Birkin wants her name off the collection after a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK campaign showed her to what goes into making the bag.
PETA recently exposed the cruel practices used to get the skin from crocodiles in both the US and Africa. The organization used hidden cameras to unveil unethical treatment of crocodiles in both locations. They found that hundreds of crocodiles are being crammed into concrete pits while they await their deaths at a mere one to three years old. Crocodiles in the Nile have a typical lifespan of up to 80 years, yet they are being cut short to make handbags.
From the concrete pits, the animals are maliciously slaughtered with guns, their necks are cut open with box cutters while they are still conscious, and their spines severed. Workers were told in one particular location “to shove rods into the animals’ skulls to try to scramble their brains.” Some of these killing methods don’t even result in immediate death, just cause immense pain. The crocodiles have been seen moving minutes after their attempted slaughter, hanging on the bleed racks in unimaginable pain.
Upon learning this, Jane Birkin released a statement saying, “Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermès handbags carrying my name… I have asked Hermès to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place.” The 31-year relationship established between Hermès and Birkin seems to be put on hold until the luxury good manufacturer can work more ethical practices into its supply chain.
Lots of time in life is spent waiting. For some, it’s for luxury goods, and for others its death in a dirty, stinky, overcrowded concrete pit. Nevertheless, some are willing to pay the price of the handbag, while “the reptiles on these cruel and disgusting factory farms are paying the real price,” according to PETA President, Ingrid E. Newkirk.
The following response from Hermès was given to New York Magazine:
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. Hermès 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. Hermès specifies that this farm does not belong to them and that the crocodile skins supplied are not used for the fabrication of Birkin bags.
Hermès imposes on its partners the highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles. For more than 10 years, we have organized monthly visits to our suppliers. We control their practices and their conformity with slaughter standards established by veterinary experts and by the Fish and Wildlife (a federal American organization for the protection of nature) and with the rules established under the aegis of the U.N.O, by the Washington Convention of 1973 which defines the protection of endangered species.
Elizabeth Bell is a marketing and new business maven based in New York.