crocodile farmed for leather

How Reptiles are Suffering for Fashion

Reptiles are farmed and skinned for fashion, and it is not always legal


Reptiles are celebrated for many reasons. There is one industry however, the fashion industry, that celebrates reptiles for the wrong reason – their skins.

Crocodile Farming in Australia

Reptiles are killed by the millions every year, to produce luxury fashion items such as handbags, watches and shoes[1]. While crocodile leather is an item sold globally by many international fashion brands, one location it is made is right here in Australia.

Crocodile farming is a legal practice in Australia[2], with global brands such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton owning Australian crocodile farms[3][4]. Each crocodile farm contains 30,000 to 60,000 crocodiles at any one time[5]. Australia is responsible for 50% of the global saltwater crocodile skin trade, with much of the industry fueled by demand for luxury handbags in France[6]. Crocodiles are killed between the ages of 2 to 4 as this is when their belly skin is the size coveted by fashion houses[7], while in the wild estuarine crocodiles can live up to 70 years of age[8].

How are Reptiles Killed for Fashion?

crocodiles being farmed for leather

Not only are crocodiles slaughtered for their skin, but they experience significant distress during captivity. It has been reported that 90% of injuries that farmed crocodiles sustain are directly related to the conditions they are kept in. They receive wounds from fighting, which in turn are prone to infection as bacteria levels in the water are negatively altered due to the large amounts of bodies. Moreover, these crocodiles develop deformities as they cannot carry out their natural walking or swimming behaviours[9].

Slaughter methods as well are both crude and cruel. As per Australian guidelines, crocodiles can be killed by being shot in the brain, to then have their spinal cord severed and a rod inserted into their brain. Crocodiles under two metres long can also be killed using a hammer and sharp chisel[10]

Internationally, there have been reports that fashion houses have skinned snakes and lizards alive to make their products[11],[12].

No animal should have to face such a cruel death for fashion.

Illegal Trading in Fashion

While reptiles suffer enormously in the legal fashion trade, many suffer also due to illegal trading. Records show that 5,607 items of illegal wildlife products were seized at US ports between 2003 and 2013, destined for global fashion houses. Reptiles accounted for 84% of these seized items, many which were shoes, handbags and belts[13]. A recent study found that despite many layers of controls by both companies and countries, illegal wildlife products have infiltrated the supply chains of prominent fashion brands[14]. Similarly, retrospective research into snakeskins has found large discrepancies between the number of snakes legally killed and recorded, and the true number of snakes killed, indicating a large scale of illegal trading[15].

snake - a victim of the fashion industry

Progress in the Fashion Industry

While Australia remains a large exporter of crocodile skins for fashion, there has also been much progress within the fashion industry itself, who are recognising the cruelty inherent to exotic leather. In 2018, fashion house Chanel announced they would no longer use exotic skins such as crocodile leather in their items[14]. Similarly, brands such as Burberry, Victoria Beckham, Vivienne Westwood and Diane von Furstenburg and ASOS have also banned the sale and use of exotic leather[16,17].

FOUR PAWS is on a global mission to build a kinder fashion movement, having launched our Wear It Kind Campaign in 2019 to encourage brands to show leadership in improving their business practices and promoting how businesses can succeed when they value animal protection in fashion.

Together, we can show brands that we value animal protection in fashion as a priority. Follow this link to learn more about how you can make kinder choices to animals when shopping for fashion.

lamb with people in ethical fashionwear

make kinder choices for animals 

when shopping for fashion

Learn how


[1] Wear It Kind [accessed 11/10/22]
[2] Australian Government: Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water [Accessed 10/10/22] ://
[3] The Guardian [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[4] Travel NQ [Accessed 10/10/22]
[5] Travel NQ [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[6] ABC [Accessed 10/10/2022],Australia%20accounts%20for%2050%20per%20cent%20of%20the%20global%20trade,and%20exported%20by%20the%20NT
[7] Travel NQ [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[8] Government of Western Australia: Department of Fisheries [Accessed 10/10/2022]

[9] The Independent [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[10] Australian Government [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[11] New York Post [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[12] PETA [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[13] National Geographic [Accessed 10/10/2022]

[14] National Geographic [Accessed 10/10/2022]

[15] Oxford Brookes University [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[16] Wear It Kind [Accessed 10/10/2022]
[17] EcoTextile [Accessed 10/10/2022]
Isilay Kizilcik

Isilay Kizilcik

Former Supporter Relations Coordinator, FOUR PAWS Australia

Isilay is a member of the Supporter Relations Team at FOUR PAWS Australia, having joined in 2019 to help make the world a better place for animals.

She is passionate about animal welfare and protection, and has worked in this space for six years. She has also volunteered with various animal protection organisations.

Share now!