(Paris, July 28, 2015 (AFP)-AFP) - British singer Jane Birkin has asked luxury manufacturer Hermes to remove her name from its crocodile-skin handbag after learning of the "cruel" methods used to make the iconic accessory.
Costing tens of thousands of dollars, the Birkin bag is a symbol of wealth and is much-loved by celebrities, but the version made out of crocodile skin has attracted the ire of animal rights activists.
"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," Birkin, 68, said in a statement.
The bag was designed for Birkin in 1984, after a chance meeting of the singer and the then president of Hermes, Jean-Louis Dumas. A young mother at the time, she complained she could not find a bag that was both elegant and practical.
The crocodile version, which costs at least $36,000, is one of Hermes's best-known products, along with its silk scarves and purses named after Grace Kelly.
The handbag, which also comes in cow, calf or ostrich leather, is made entirely by hand in France. Each bag takes 18 to 25 hours to complete.
But the cherished handbags recently became the focus of an expose by rights group PETA on crocodile farms from Texas to Zimbabwe, where the reptiles are allegedly crammed into barren concrete pits before being "cruelly hacked" to death.
PETA said it takes two or three crocodiles to make one Birkin.
"At just one year old, alligators are shot with a captive-bolt gun or crudely cut into while they're still conscious and able to feel pain," PETA said.
"The investigator saw alligators continuing to move their legs and tails in the bleed rack and in bloody ice bins several minutes after their attempted slaughter," it added.
Welcoming Birkin's decision, PETA said on its website Tuesday: "On behalf of all kind souls in the world, we thank Ms Birkin for ending her association with Hermes."
The group also called on Hermes to "stop plundering wildlife, factory-farming crocodiles and alligators and slaughtering them for their skins."
Hermes said Wednesday it was probing claims of cruelty at crocodile and alligator farms that supply the French fashion house with skins for its luxury handbags and accessories.
"Hermes respects and shares her emotion and was also shocked by the recently published images," the company said in a statement.
PETA filmed disturbing images of crocodiles in Zimbabwe and alligators in Texas -- whose skin is used to make watch-straps -- in which they live crammed into barren concrete pits before being "cruelly hacked" to death.
Hermes said it was investigating the farm in Texas.
"Any proven negligence will be corrected and punished," Hermes said, highlighting that it does not own the farm and that the alligator skins are not used to make the Birkin bag.
The manufacturer added that it imposed the "highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles" on its partners.
Hermes also said Birkin's request did not affect "the friendship and trust" between her and the house.
With files and edits from Madelyn Chung
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