The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) renewed its calls Thursday for luxury fashion giants LVMH and Hermès to cease sourcing exotic animal skins.
PETA—fresh off its claimed victory of getting similar materials banned at Macy’s Inc.—sent representatives to both companies’ annual shareholder meetings to advocate in-person for the end of exotic-skin sales.
According to PETA, which is a shareholder in both companies, its representative at the LVMH meeting was excluded from the meeting space. Instead, she protested outside the room as a bloody “snake,” the organization said. Outside, a pair of activists held a “dead” snake prop and a sign reading “LVMH: Ban Exotic Skins.”
PETA’s remarks, provided to the Louis Vuitton parent prior to the meeting, protest the “abject cruelty inherent in LVMH’s exotic-skins supply chains. Though the missive also denounced the “cramped, filthy” conditions of fur farms, it focused more on how LVMH’s suppliers allegedly treat reptiles and birds.
“Investigators documented workers at abattoirs in Indonesia that supply LVMH bashing snakes over the head with hammers, pumping them full of water, and skinning them,” the statement read. “Other investigations into the company’s supply chain found workers in Vietnam cutting crocodiles’ necks open and ramming metal rods down their spines while they were still alive and workers in South Africa violently handling young ostriches and cutting their throats.”
The written remarks continued, claiming that Southeast Asia, where LVMH sources its reptile skin from, possesses one of the highest rates of deforestation, despite the company’s claim it intends to avoid sourcing from areas with very high risk of deforestation. Commercial farms, it added, threaten local populations and communities by incentivizing poaching and other illegal activities.
“[LVMH CEO Bernard] Arnault, in your most recent Social and Environmental Responsibility Report you stated that ‘success is only worthwhile if it is also a virtuous one,’ but there is nothing virtuous about the systemic cruelty to and exploitation of animals for your bags.” PETA wrote in conclusion. “When will LVMH make good on its promise to ‘forge a fresh alliance between LVMH and nature’ by removing fur and exotic skins from future collections?”
Antonio Belloni, LVMH’s group managing director, responded to PETA’s question during the company’s general meeting, stating that LVMH’s position had not changed since the last time PETA asked.
“We’re convinced that natural raw materials… contribute to outstanding and lasting products of our Maison,” Belloni said. “We’re in favor of freedom of choice. Some of our customers continue to desire and buy these types of products. Our houses can select the materials that they use in their design process, but they must do so whilst scrupulously complying with the code of practice we have governing animal raw materials.”
A PETA representative also attended the Hermès meeting and alleged the company had made “deceptive and misleading claims” regarding its standards for the ethical treatment of alligators, crocodiles and ostriches. Specifically, the representative pushed back against CEO Axel Dumas’ claim, at last year’s meeting, that Hermès’ farms are responsible for saving species of crocodiles from extinction and reestablishing biodiversity.
“Crocodile populations in Australia have rebounded in nature since the 1960s due to their designation as a protected species in 1974, not due to farming, which even the International Crocodile Farmers Association—an Hermès partner—acknowledges,” PETA wrote in its prepared statement. “Hermès knows that crocodile farms contribute nothing to local biodiversity because the animals live in cramped facilities, not out in nature, and crocodile farming is notably absent from its list of biodiversity initiatives.”
Hermès did not respond to a request for comment.
Of course, LVMH and Hermès are not the only luxury fashion houses to receive criticism from PETA for their use of exotic skins. In November, the activist group sent a representative to Tapestry Inc.’s annual meeting to urge the Coach parent to implement an exotic-skin ban companywide. In August, PETA attended Capri Holdings’ annual meeting, where it similarly pushed the Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo and Versace owner to end the “egregious cruelty” of using exotic skins.