Protestors took to the streets last Tuesday afternoon in front Chicago’s Hermès fashion store, located in the downtown shopping district, to protest the brand’s use of reptile skin in their new line of bags and wristwatches.
According to a press release by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, the group was organized to resemble a “bloody reptile,” painted in deep red and holding a sign that read “Hermès: Accessories to Murder.” The painted protestors represented the crocodiles that were slaughtered to manufacture the new fashion line.
The protest comes in light of a recent investigation by CBS of a Texas crocodile farm that supplies Hermès. CBS investigated the farm and found that after a captive-bolt gun, which is the typical method used to kill the reptiles, malfunctioned, the workers began employing gruesome methods such as attempting to dislocate the alligators’ vertebrae and shoving metal rods up their spinal columns.
PETA has filed a complaint with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, alleging violations of a Texas ban on cruelty to non-livestock animals.
PETA also obtained video footage of an alligator farm in Zimbabwe that supplies crocodile skins to Hermès. The video shows crocodiles “crowded into unnatural, barren concrete pits for $40,000-plus Birkin and Kelly bags,” read PETA’s press release
“PETA’s exposé of Hermès suppliers in the U.S. and Africa reveals that every Hermès watchband or Birkin bag means a living, feeling, being experienced a miserable life and a ghastly death,” said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk.
“People pay thousands of dollars for such accessories, but the reptiles on these cruel and disgusting factory farms are paying the real price.”
Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist for PETA, said the main goal was to spread awareness about how Hermès makes their products and the protest turned out very well.
“We were able to talk to a lot of people about why PETA is acting in ways to stop using skins of exotic animals,” Byrne said.
The protestors used a tablet to show passersby the video of the gruesome crocodile deaths.
“We arranged this more for people to see this visual; we wanted people to see the images from the investigation,” Byrne said. “As soon as we began to set up people crowded around and wanted to know why we were there.”
“They don’t want to see animals suffering,” she said.
Byrne said a lot of people wanted to know what they could do to stop this cruel act on these reptiles. She told people to gather more information on PETA’s website and sign PETA’s petition to stop fashion companies from selling animal-based products.
The petition has already made strides, with many companies, like Adidas, Nike, Stella McCartney and H&M, already having made pledges to be cruelty-free.
Byrne said the protest ended when the police were called, but she wasn’t surprised. She said it’s natural the store didn’t want them exposing the company’s practices.
“It’s the last thing they want their costumers to see,” she said. “[It’s] not in with their luxurious image.”
Byrne said this protest helped people see the cruel realities of how these animals are used for fashion. Although the organization has made progress on getting companies to be cruelty-free and raise awareness, many major companies are still not on the same level.
“People do not realize what is going on behind the scenes.” Byrne said.