The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

BIG LOAD OF CROC FROM ACTIVISTS

- PETER MICHAEL

NORTH Queensland crocodile farmers believe they’ve been unfairly targeted in a global campaign by animal rights activists against “cruelty” in the prized crocodile skin handbag trade.

“We love crocodiles,” Hartley’s Creek crocodile farm owner Angela Freeman said yesterday.

“We treasure them. Every single crocodile is very valuable to us. They’re our livelihood, our pets and our product.”

Mrs Freeman, who has about 3500 crocodiles on her tourist farm north of Cairns (pictured), wants the harvest of wild crocodile eggs to be allowed in Queensland to supply the insatiable demand of the nation’s $25 million-a-year skin export market.

One crocodile egg is worth $50. One crocodile skin is worth between $600 and $800.

And, depending on the brand name, a crocodile leather handbag sells for anywhere between $2000 and $68,000.

Jennifer Lopez is a fan. Victoria Beckham, Miranda Kerr and Beyonce too. But actress Jane Birkin, whose namesake luxury Birkin handbag is made by Hermes, is not so sure.

Birkin is in talks with Hermes to remove her name from the iconic product after undercover activists filmed controvers­ial crocodile slaughter practices in Africa and Texas.

Hermes own a crocodile farm south of Cairns. Louis Vuitton own one at Innisfail.

Mrs Freeman, who supplies about 900 hides a year compared with 20,000 by the bigger farms, said she too was appalled at footage of the cruel treatment of crocodiles.

“Here we use electric shock and then a single bullet to the head before processing the animal.

“We have the highest ethical standards, so it is terribly disappoint­ing when you get fanatical vegan activists who want to shut everyone and everything down.”

PETA Australia, who held protests outside Hermes stores on the Gold Coast and in Sydney, said they were working to expose animal cruelty in crocodile farming.

“We are extremely concerned about the treatment of crocodiles held and used for their skins in North Queensland crocodile farms,” spokeswoma­n Claire Fryer said.

Federal politician­s sitting on a Senate inquiry into aquacultur­e were this week urged to protect the crocodile farming industry.

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