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Citing croc cruelty, Jane Birkin asks Hermes to remove name from bags

PETA claims major victory after crocodile exposé raises style icon Jane Birkin’s ire.

Don’t call it a Birkin!

In a major coup for animal rights activists, famed style goddess Jane Birkin has demanded her name be removed from one of French fashion house Hermes’ most exclusive bags.

“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 de-baptize the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place," the 68-year-old British-born Birkin said in a statement.

An undercover investigation of the exotic-skins industry by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal found “live reptiles sawed open and left to bleed to death on farms that supply skins to luxury brand Hermès,” the group says.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix narrates a video released with the probe’s findings. It shows vast, concrete-enclosed crocodile farms in Texas and Zimbabwe.

In the video, workers described sending the hides of the reptiles to Hermes' croc leather suppliers -- and even mention the Birkin bags by name.

PETA praised Birkin for her public slap at the company that she has had ties with for decades.

“Birkin bags once marked people as celebrities or at least members of the super-rich, but soon, no one will want to be caught dead carrying one. On behalf of all kind souls in the world, we thank Ms. Birkin for ending her association with Hermès and we call on Hermès to do the right things and stop plundering wildlife, factory-farming crocodiles and alligators and slaughtering them for their skin,” a PETA spokesman said.

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Birkin struck up a friendship with the head ofHermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, in the 1980s, and agreed to let the company put her name on a line of women’s bags.

The crocodile Birkin and the Kelly bag, named after actress Grace Kelly, are among the company’s most sought-after luxury goods.

The cheapest start at around $20,000 and go up from there.

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Victoria Beckham caused an international sensation when her soccer star husband purchased a diamond-studded silver Himalayan Birkin for her back in 2009.

It was reported then that he had to pull major strings to get one because the waiting list was four years.

A look on eBay found a similar bag for the going price of $99,000.

A fuchsia Hermes crocodile Birkin bag with a diamond-studded clasp fetched $222,000 at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong last month --a record, reports Reuters.

The Birkin bag has worked its way into pop culture in America: An entire episode of Sex and the City is built around Samantha Jones’ longing for one.

“It’s not a bag. It’s a Birkin,” she is told after gasping at the price -- and the waiting list.

Jane Birkin said she has signed Phoenix’s Mercy for Animals petition, which urges people to "shed exotic skins from your wardrobe" in protest against the "millions of reptiles slaughtered each year and turned into shoes, handbags, belts and other accessories.”

The group backs undercover investigations similar to the one PETA ran for its reptile findings.

Hermès told Reuters the crocodile skins it sourced from a Texas farm in the Phoenix-narrated video were not used for Birkin bags -- and stressed that it did not own that farm.

"Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned,"Hermèssaid in a statement, vowing to demand its suppliers operate with the highest ethical standards regarding the treatment of crocodiles.

"Hermèsrespects and shares her (Jane Birkin's) emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast," the statement continued.

"Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for so many years."

John A. Oswald is editor-at-large at Metro and can be found on Twitter@nyc_oz.
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