Some thoughts on crocodiles

Aug 18, 2013

I just returned from a splendid vacation in Belize.  Spending seven unplugged days on a private island was an incredible treat.  I swam with a manatee and drank my body weight in rum punch.  It was glorious.

One of the island's permanent residents is a 14 foot crocodile named Fluffy.  Fluffy has one eye and a set of teeth to make you dizzy.  He eats fish and small mammals; humans are not on his menu.  Like his crocodile friends, Fluffy is a smart dude.  He knows where he is safe and where he isn't.  While hunting in the water off the dock might be acceptable from time to time, coming on to shore with humans certainly is not.  We are more dangerous to him than he is to us, and he knows it.

One night when we were observing Fluffy, some unthinking person standing near me said "That croc would make a beautiful handbag."


The comment stayed in the back of my head through the rest of the trip.  I am completely and utterly against using crocodile skin to make handbags.

This is mostly because of the rarity of crocodiles.  Technically the crocodile is not on the endangered species list, and alligators were taken off the list in the 1980s (Animal Planet has a great description of the difference).  Some bag designers, like David St. Moritz, argue that there may now be too many alligators.  While this might be legal, I can't help but feel it's unethical.

If we go way way back, early purses were often made from crocodiles or alligators.  Susan B. Anthony famously carried an alligator purse.  Purse Pixie has a great history of how handbags came to be, including how Americans started to carry exotic leather bags (pink crocodile!) in the 1970s.  I had hoped to find that this trend started for a sustainable reason, but sadly it seems to have just been the fashion.

In 2009 The Purse Blog reported that Hermes was breeding their own crocs for their bags.  While I can't find a current Hermes crocodile bag, a quick Ebay search for a Kelly (one of my favorites) in crocodile turns up a few for $15,000-$20,000.  I feel uncomfortable with killing such an ancient creature for an overpriced luxury, but I'm having difficulty squaring this with my own love of cow leather.  If anyone knows more about this practice, or has thoughts on cow leather vs. crocodile, please comment below.

If you're in the market for cruelty-free bags, check out the Blossom by Susan Nichole.  I'm loving the mustard color for fall, although I'm tempted to buy the black as a staple.  Check back soon for an update.

The moral of the story: please be aware of what you're purchasing.  Although Fluffy isn't as cuddly as his name might suggest, he doesn't deserve to be on your arm.

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