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Exotic Leather: Crocodile and Alligator Farming

From Wear It Kind
September 2022

Crocodiles and alligators are incredible survivors. But these fascinating creatures, who first appeared on the earth around 200 million years ago, are facing a threat like never before. And that threat is unethical fashion.

Image from Kyaw Tun-Unsplash

Millions of wild animals are killed for their skin every year to produce exotic leather. They are either bred and killed on farms, or caught in the wild. Many are turned into shoes, watch wristbands, belts, and handbags.

So much of this trade operates entirely outside of the law. For instance, the farming of snakes is considered less lucrative than alligator or crocodile farming, making the taking of wild animals a much more attractive method. This makes it likely there are as many python skins traded illegally as there are traded legally. Skins from wild pythons are routinely mixed in stockpiles of skins from "legally-sourced" pythons prior to export.1

With fewer animal protection laws for reptiles, the illegal wildlife trade, and poor traceability standards, it is very difficult for brands and consumers to know the true source of the skin used in exotic leather products.

Wild animals endure a lifetime of fear and pain, simply to produce boots or a purse. These animals deserve so much better.

'real' leather
Image from

Spotlight on crocodile and alligator farming

Crocodiles and alligators are incredible survivors. But these fascinating creatures, who first appeared on the earth around 200 million years ago, are facing a threat like never before.2

And that threat is unethical fashion.

These animals whose ancestors lived amongst the dinosaurs are farmed and killed in staggering numbers, simply so their skin can be turned into shoes and handbags.

When raised in captivity on commercial farms, the behavioral needs and sensitive biology of alligators and crocodiles is easily overlooked, leading to extremely poor welfare conditions. Similar to alligator farming in the U.S., crocodile farming and harvesting eggs from the wild are legal in Australia3 but these wild animals are entirely unsuited to farming and the result is cruel and distressing.

  • 90% of injuries that farmed crocodiles suffer are caused by their environment.
  • Crocodiles are wounded through fighting and develop deformities because they can’t walk, swim, or express any of the behaviors they would in the wild.
  • Wounds easily become infected in water that is polluted by overcrowding.Crocodiles have two-centimeter-thick skulls and slaughtermen resort to barbaric methods including repeated blows with axes or baseball bats to smash through the animal’s skull.
  • Crocodiles suffer extreme pain during the slaughter process; they often die a slow death and some even experience the unimaginable agony of being skinned alive.
  • Farmed crocodiles are usually slaughtered at two to three years of age. In the wild, they can live for 70 years.4

farmed Alligators
Horrific conditions on a crocodile farm - image from FourPaws

“Undercover video footage, recorded by PETA, of crocodile farming and slaughter in the USA, Africa and Vietnam showed shocking cruelty including evidence of animals being conscious during the skinning process.”
- Thomas Pietsch, wildlife expert, at FOUR PAWS International

What are we doing?

Change is underway. Growing demand for ethical fashion has driven a steady progression of major designers and fashion houses rejecting the use of exotic leather.

Brands Chanel, Victoria Beckham, Vivienne Westwood, Diane von Furstenberg and ASOS plus retailers Topshop, H&M and Selfridges have all banned the use and sale of exotic leather. They are helping to lead the way – that the future of fashion must involve kindness to animals.

But, as long as there are animals suffering, we will continue our fight against this cruelty. We will expose the truth behind the use of exotic skins in fashion and, through our Wear it Kind program, we will continue to mobilize a movement of people, brands and designers who are 100% committed to ensuring that no animal suffers for the sake of fashion.

We provide companies with the advice, training, and tools they need to make much-needed changes in their supply chains because each positive step they take improves the lives of animals.

  1. International Trade Centre 2012, ‘The Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins’
  2. Smithsonian 2012, ‘The top 10 greatest survivors of evolution’
  3. O’Connell, S 2006, ‘Crocodile farms: is it cruel to keep these wild creatures captive?’, The Independent
  4. Ibid.

Also see Four Paws' quick tips to support more compassion in fashion.

Skinning Alligators... Source: unknown

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