Farmers Accuse Hermès of Hoarding Alligator Skins

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Photo: William Warby's Flickr

Last year, farmers in Louisiana who produce alligator skins used for luxury handbags and watches and things plucked over half a million gator eggs from the wild to harvest. However, this year most farmers collected no eggs. Demand for the goods, which routinely cost upwards of five figures, has flagged somewhat. For example, sales of watches — a key component of the gator-farming business — are down 25 percent. But farmers don't think that adds up to such a quick and utter washout of the business.

Hermès, which began breeding their own crocodiles on farms in Australia this year to keep up with demand for croc goods, became the “largest player in the exotic tannery business” a couple of years ago, according to the Times. In the nineties, they began buying tanneries.

One farmer posits that Hermès is hoarding the skins, driving up prices for other fashion houses (Hermès denies a monopoly of the business). Now some gator farmers are being forced to experiment with other livelihoods, such as opening roadside zoos with turtles and snakes found in the surrounding wilderness. It's less bloody, but also a far less lucrative and glamorous occupation.

As Sales Vanish, Skins Stay on Alligators [NYT]