Hermès is planning on opening a new alligator farm in Australia for luxury goods. This news has attracted major criticism from animal welfare groups.

According to the luxury brand’s plan, the farm will hire 30 employees and start with 4,000 alligators, a number that will eventually increase to a staggering 50,000 while producing 15,000 skins a year. The area is already home to numerous alligator farms, but those numbers will make the upcoming establishment one of the largest in the region.

Dr Jed Goodfellow, a senior policy officer at RSPCA Australia, said the society remained opposed to the killing of any animal “where the purpose of their death is primarily to produce a non-essential luxury item like fur or skin”. He said the society was not aware of the details of animal welfare practices on the planned farm and said generally there were many welfare risks raised by crocodile farming in intensive conditions, “including injuries from close confinement, small individual penning arrangements, and the impacts of restraint and slaughter methods”.

On the other side, the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s crocodile specialist group Professor Grahame Webb says that fashion brands like Hermès actually contribute to the conservation efforts in the area. “[Those companies] have to get more and more control over their supply chain so that they can guarantee the highest standards,” he said to the Guardian. “Hermès is a very conservative company – it’s them trying to do the right thing. Australia has an excellent reputation for its crocodile management program worldwide.” Webb also noted that harvesting eggs from the wild was sustainable, and the number of wild saltwater crocodiles is now “healthy and stable.”

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