Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Opportunity to Fix Something

I want to make a clear statement at the start of this piece - I am an animal lover, I work hard to try and support the efforts of anti-poaching organizations.

But... and this is going to shock and amaze some of you, I am not perfect.  I eat meat, I have leather watch bands and wear leather shoes.  As I have often said, I am not a good Buddhist - I eat meat and I like stuff.

And point of full disclosure - I find a lot of the media actions of PETA to be, short-sighted, and oftentimes driven more for a desire for publicity than actual responsible action.  Good intentions, I have no doubt.  But in several instances they have over-stepped the mark.  The public pillory of Steve Irwin by PETA's Dan Mathews was chicken shit.  To call it a "dick move" would be a gross understatement.  It was pretty classless, and I lost a great deal of respect for them.  The fact that Mr. Mathews chose to wait until after Mr. Irwin was dead for his "tough guy take down" showed a particular lack of compassion, and his unwillingness to even consider other opinions... well let's just say it did not exactly win hearts and minds.  I know what it feels like to believe so strongly in your opinion that the lines can blur and  Bob Dylan's "Dark Eyes" in his Empire Burlesque album puts it more eloquently than I ever could:
"time is short and the days are sweet and passion rules the arrow that flies"

Having said that, a recent undercover film by PETA has (it appears) uncovered a chink in the supply chain of Hermès.  The basics are that Hermès uses crocodile and alligator to produce bags and watch bands.  I don't believe any of that is so shocking.  What I personally find troubling is the treatment that these animals appear to be receiving to produce something that is not essential, but is a luxury item.  I have no intention of opening up the debate of meat as food, man's place in the food chain, God's will, etc.   Those are deeper questions that I personally have no desire to get into.  My simple question is this - if the animals in this film are indeed living in the conditions as filmed, and if they are suffering at the level that they appear to be due to (I'm sorry) dick heads trusted and clearly failing to do their job correctly, then it is time for Hermès to step up and fix this.

I would ask that you judge for yourself - here is the you tube video:

I reached out to Hermès and their communications office provided this response, and in the interest of fairness I am reprinting it here in its original form:

"Hermès has established a strong network of farm partners to secure its supply in the highest skin quality. All our skins used by Hermès are sourced from farms where Hermès demands the best farming conditions which conform to the international regulations .
These farms respect the rules established by the Washington Convention (1972), which defines the parameters of the protection of specific species. These rules established under the aegis of the UNO, were beneficial for the protection of crocodiles: these farms reintroduce into the wild a part of their farm breeding programme which therefore assists in regulating the local ecosystems". 

Hermès is continuously verifying all procedures.  Any non conforming parties  will be dealt with accordingly and will be sanctionned." 

Now while I do appreciate Hermès taking the time to respond, I have to be honest I find this a bit disingenuous because it isn't really addressing what the concern is.  I have no doubt that HQ in Paris Hermès is setting policy with the belief that it will be followed, but I also have no doubt that somewhere down the line the boundaries might just be getting blurred and the person/s responsible for "verifying all procedures" appears to have been asleep at the switch.  With the exception of The Eiger Sanction the whole notion of being "sanctioned" holds about as much weight as after school detention.  It's a pain in the ass and means your stuck in school while your friends are at the mall, but in the big scheme of things it doesn't exactly stay on your "permanent record".  To site a precedent dating back to 1972 is perhaps not the best example of being at the forefront of ethical farming.  A lot has changed since then, and what we thought we knew - smoking and drinking while pregnant is fine, seat belts are a pain in the ass, elephants will overpopulate their ecosystem, have been proven to be patently false.

And let me wrap this up by saying that Hermès does A LOT of positive things.  The Foundation d'enterprise Hermès quietly endeavors to recognize, support and foster good works.  It's a shame they don't promote it more - but watch this space for coverage of it, because it IS GOOD and should be known about -

So Hermès, over to you - this is your opportunity to fix something.  You are a great brand, with great people making, promoting and selling beautiful items.  And that is to be commended.  All that I am asking is that you tighten up the supply chain, and don't just talk about the ethical farming of the animals you use for leather, but make sure it happens.  You will win more than a few fans and customers ; )

1 comment:

  1. PETA is the Michael Moore of the animal world. They started as well intention thing but have begun to feel that press is more important than results in my opinion.
    Add Greenpeace and few others who are VERY profitable non profits.

    I also wonder out loud if the video is accurate, or edited or just a moment.