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Undercover Investigators Expose Atrocities on Alligator Farms that Supply Retailer Hermès

June 24, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

UPDATE: On July 24th, one month after PETA released video showing crocodiles and alligators used to make Birkin bags being tortured, British singer Jane Birkin has asked Hermès to remove her name from the line of handbags: “Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermes handbags carrying my name… I have asked Hermès to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place.”


In 2001, a NY Times fashion writer reported that Jessica Seinfeld, the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, attempted to use her famous last name at an Hermès store to jump to the front of a waiting list for a Birkin Bag, a purse regarded by many as the ultimate status symbol. Ms. Seinfeld, exasperated by negative stories written about her in gossip columns, denied the allegations in subsequent media coverage. Lost in the celebrity scandal were the real victims: the alligators and crocodiles who are raised and slaughtered in concrete factories to make the purses.

Reality star Kris Jenner wears Hermès purse made from alligator skin (photo:

Reality star Kris Jenner wears Hermes purse made from alligator skin (photo:

In 2014, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent undercover investigators into factories in Zimbabwe and Texas that supply Hermes with their crocodiles and alligators. Video footage shows employees cutting into their bodies while they are fully conscious, sawing into the back of their necks with a box cutter to sever their blood vessels and stabbing them in an attempt to dislocate their vertebrae during the drawn-out slaughter process. Investigators documented crocodiles bleeding out and writhing in agony for several minutes.

The undercover investigation also revealed the conditions in which the alligators and crocodiles are housed. In the wild, these intelligent animals raise their young, use tools to capture their prey and live for decades, often longer than humans. On factory farms, the crocodiles are intensively confined in concrete pits, forced to live in pools of their own excrement and denied the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them. They are slaughtered after just one year.

Alligators at farm that supplies Hermès live in excrement-filled concrete pits

Crocodiles at Hermes crocodile skin supplier live in excrement-filled concrete pits

Hermès' alligator factory farm in Zimbabwe

Hermes’ crocodile factory farm in Zimbabwe

Hermès suppliers slaughter up to four alligators to make just one Birkin bag. The skins are also used to make watchbands, belts, shoes and other accessories.

Alligator: before & after

Alligator: before & after

In a statement included in the NY Times story about the PETA investigation, Hermès defends its products and expresses no remorse about the brutality exposed in the video.

In Texas, the Chambers County District Attorney is conducting an investigation at Lone Star Alligator Farms.

Crocodiles at Hermes supplier in Zimbabwe

Crocodiles intensively confined at Hermès supplier in Zimbabwe

Your Turn

The alligators sold by Hermès are subjected to unspeakable atrocities on their journey to becoming a purse. Please sign letter asking Hermes to stop selling items made from crocodile and alligator skins.

Up to 4 alligators must be slaughtered to make one Hermès Berkin Bag

Up to 4 alligators must be slaughtered to make one Hermès Birkin Bag

Filed under: Clothes, Investigations
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Activists to Stage Nationwide Protests Against Company Holding Lolita Captive

May 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

On May 9th and May 23rd, animal rights activists will stage protests in nine states at theme parks owned by Palace Entertainment, the company that operates the Miami Seaquarium, where the orca Lolita has been held captive for 45 years in the nation’s smallest killer whale tank. Palace, which owns 32 amusement and waterparks nationwide, purchased the Miami Seaquarium in 2014.


Lolita has lived in the nation’s smallest killer whale pool since 1970

Lolita was kidnapped from her pod off the coast of Washington state in 1970. For the first 10 years, she had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors, such as hunting, diving and swimming in the open water. Her tank is just 20 feet deep.

"Please take me home. I don't belong in a pool."

Lolita is 20′ long. Her tank is 20′ deep.

Lolita’s captivity is not just cruel; it is illegal. In fact, Palace Entertainment is violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in three ways. Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from Florida’s searing sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Lolita as endangered because she was taken from the protected Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This historic decision has provided legal ammunition to the groups that are suing the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations.

photo: Matthew Hoelscher

Animal exploitation (photo: Matthew Hoelscher)

Palace Entertainment has been steadfast in its opposition to releasing Lolita to a seaside pen. In an effort to keep their biggest money maker, Seaquarium spokesperson Robert Rose tells the press that Lolita will die if she is released into the ocean. Advocates, on the other hand, assert that a coastal sanctuary would finally give her the opportunity to live — providing her with space to swim, communicate with her pod; receive rehabilitation; and be released if she is deemed capable of surviving in the wild.

The May 9th protests, organized by the group Shut Down Palace, will take place at Palace’s theme parks in Florida, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh & Lancaster) and California.  On May 23rd, a second wave of protests will take place at Palace parks in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

The #ShutDownPalace protests are not the first major effort to liberate Lolita. In January, over 1,500 activists from around the world descended upon Miami to participate in the “Miracle March for Lolita.” In a rousing speech after the march, Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained told the crowd to “get the police tape” because the Miami Sequarium is a “crime scene.”

Miracle March for Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Miracle March for Lolita on January 17, 2015 (photo: Christina Estrada)

Filed under: Entertainment, WIldlife
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Monkeygate: Bewildered Florida Residents Discover Another Secret Monkey Breeding Facility

March 20, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Just four months after filing a lawsuit against Hendry County, Florida, for approving a monkey breeding facility without soliciting public comment, local residents discovered that County officials secretly approved another monkey breeding facility.

On Tuesday morning, they are holding a press conference at the Hendry County courthouse to express their outrage about the illegal lack of transparency as well as their grave concerns about the public safety and animal cruelty issues associated with the secret facilities. They will also ask what other secrets County officials are hiding from tax-paying residents.

Bioculture's monkey breeding facility in Hendry County, FL.

Hendry County residents discovered a second monkey facility secretly approved by local officials.

Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained recently traveled from New York to Florida to speak to residents who say they are determined to prevent Hendry County from becoming the nation’s capital for the importation and breeding of lab monkeys.

The plaintiffs in the case against Hendry, who are being represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), claim that County officials not only violated Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires the County to hold a public hearing on matters that affect the community, but also broke zoning laws by illegally approving a wild monkey operation on land zoned for agricultural use. When ALDF filed the lawsuit, residents were not yet aware that the County had, behind closed doors, approved a second monkey breeding facility.

Angry residents gather at Hendry County municipal building to protest secret monkey breeding facilities

Residents gather at Hendry County administrative building to protest secret monkey breeding facilities

The facility that is the subject of the ALDF lawsuit, Primera Science Center, is being built by PreLabs, an Illinois-based company which reportedly intends to import 3,200 macaque monkeys from Mauritius, an island off the east coast of Africa.

Primera Science Center, a monkey breeding facility under construction in Hendry County, FL.

Primera Science Center, a monkey breeding facility under construction in Hendry County, FL.

The newly-discovered facility has already been built and is owned by the Mauritius-based company Bioculture. Bioculture is leasing land from Primate Products, a company that breeds monkeys and manufactures equipment for use in monkey labs. Area residents, who are determined to shut down this facility, do not know if Bioculture has already imported monkeys, and the company’s Sales & Marketing Director refused to answer any questions when TheirTurn reached him by phone. But the residents’ efforts are not without precedent. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that Bioculture’s already-constucted monkey breeding facility in Puerto Rico could not be opened because it was illegally built on land that was zoned for other purposes.

Hendry County is the lab monkey breeding capital of the United States

Residents are waging a battle against Hendry County officials to prevent their community from becoming the nation’s monkey breeding capital

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), which has worked for years to prevent these facilities from being approved, believes that Air France, the only commercial airline that transports monkeys, will ship the animals from Mauritius for both PreLabs and Bioculture.

Actor James Cromwell protests against Air France

Actor James Cromwell participates in PETA protest against Air France at Los Angeles airport

Bioculture kidnaps and breeds macaques in Mauritius and sells them for lab experiments

Bioculture kidnaps and breeds macaques in Mauritius and sells them to monkey breeding facilities

Hendry County residents fear that the presence of thousands of exotic animals poses a safety hazard for the community. And their concerns are not unfounded. In early March, the CDC began conducting an investigation at the Tulane National Primate Research Center where monkeys died after being exposed to deadly bacteria that was mysteriously released from a separate, high security section of the lab.

Tulane National Primate Center (photo: Ellis Lucia)

Tulane National Primate Center (photo: Ellis Lucia)

According to Allison Young, an investigative reporter with USA Today, biosafety lapses have been reported all across the country, including at the Center for Disease Control, “They’ve had incidents involving Ebola, anthrax, and a very deadly strain of bird flu.”

Florida already has a population of hundreds of non-native wild macaque monkeys. Over the past 10 years, wildlife officials, who describe the animals as a “public health hazard,” have captured 700 of them. The majority of these monkeys tested positive for the herpes-B virus.

rhesus macacque monkey in Florida

Wild, non-native macaque monkey in Silver Springs, FL (photo: Graham McGeorge)

The ALDF’s lawsuit against Hendry County is ongoing. Area residents are now meeting to discuss how to handle the newly discovered Bioculture facility.

Your Turn

1. Local residents have organized a press conference on Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. in front of the Hendry County courthouse. Please spread the word so that local residents and advocates attend.

2. Please sign this form letter demanding that Air France stops transporting monkeys for lab experiments. And please boycott Air France until it does. All of the world’s other major commercial airlines refuse to transport monkeys to breeding facilities and laboratories.

Filed under: Experimentation
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Video: NYC Horse-Drawn Carriage Drivers Work Illegally in Parade During Snow Storm

March 4, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

NYC law prohibits horse-drawn carriage drivers from working their horses in snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions. But that didn’t stop them from working a horse at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade during a snowstorm.

Horse-drawn carriage works during snowstorm in a St. Patrick's Day parade

Horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law by working during a snowstorm

TheirTurn told several police officers who lined the parade route that the carriages drivers were breaking the law, but none of them took action.

horse-drawn carriage parade police

NYPD officers watch from the sidelines as horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law

The presence of two marching bands also didn’t keep the carriage operators away, even though the city’s horse-drawn carriage operator’s manual includes marching bands on the list of stimuli that spook horses.

Marching bands and horses don't mix well because drums can spook them

Marching bands and horses don’t mix well because drums can spook them

List of stimuli that spook horses in NYC Dept. of Health's horse-drawn carriage training manual

List of stimuli that spook horses in NYC Dept. of Health’s horse-drawn carriage training manual

In fact, it was a drum that spooked a NYC carriage horse named Smoothie, who bolted down 59th street, crashed into a tree and died in front of dozens of onlookers.

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being spooked by a drum in Midtown Manhattan

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being spooked by a drum in Midtown Manhattan

The carriage operators were very much aware of the risk, which explains why they held the reins.

horse-drawn carriage illegal

Carriage drivers hold the reins to prevent horse from bolting if drums spook him

As carriage operators illegally worked a horse in a parade in Queens, several others were breaking the law on the snowy streets of Manhattan.

Horse-drawn carriage drivers work during snowstorm in defiance of the law (photo: Bronx resident)

Carriage drivers work during snowstorm in defiance of the law (photo: Bronx resident)

Animal rights activists with NYCLASS, PETA and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) also participated in the parade, bringing animal costumes instead of a living animal.

Danny Dromm

Council Member Danny Dromm (center) is lead sponsor on bill to ban horse-drawn carriages

The carriage drivers thanked the village of Sunnyside, Queens, by leaving behind a pile of horse manure on main street. Not to worry, NYC tax dollars will pay for the clean up.

New Yorkers are fined if they don't pick up after their dogs, but horse-drawn carriage drivers get a free pass

New Yorkers are fined if they don’t pick up after their dogs, but carriage drivers get a free pass

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please ask your City Council Member to support the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages (Intro 573). If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:

Filed under: Entertainment
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Activists Brave Frigid Temps and Angry Parents While Protesting Ringling Abuse

February 24, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

“You’re scaring my child,” said one mother as she passed activists with posters showing abused elephants. She attempted to cover her son’s eyes and ears to protect him from the images and chants, but she only had two hands.

Another mother gave the finger to an activist who showed her an actual bullhook, the weapon used to beat elephants into submission or, as Ringling describes it, an “accepted elephant husbandry tool.”

Animal rights activists brave the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Braving the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Ringing protest (photos: Miriam Lucille)

Children look at the images; parents look the other way (photos: Miriam Lucille)

One ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman with seven young children appeared stunned when an activist said, “The Torah prohibits Jews from causing Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (unnecessary physical or psychological pain to any living creature). With a guilty look, she said she “didn’t know” when told that baby elephants are “kidnapped from their mothers” in the circus.

Such were the interactions between protesters and customers during opening night of Ringling Bros. Circus in New York City. Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained was there to report.

If one state lawmaker has his way, elephant performances will banned in New York. In January, Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill to prohibit the use of whips, bullhooks and chains on elephants. Without these weapons, Ringling cannot control the elephants, making it impossible to force them to perform.

Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)

Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)

New York would not be the first place to ban circus elephants. In October 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the City Council asked the city attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance outlawing the use of the bullhook. Baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other implements used on the pachyderms would also be banned.” The ordinance takes effect in 2017. In December 2014, lawmakers in Oakland, California, voted to ban the use of bull hooks, and that law also takes effect in 2017. Elephant acts in circuses are already banned in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, Columbia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Ringling Bros

Elephants perform tricks to avoid punishment.

Photo: PETA

Elephants are stored in boxcars when traveling between cities (Photo: PETA)

Elephants are among the most intelligent and social animals on the planet. In the wild, they live in herds, raise their children and travel long distances. In captivity, they are deprived of the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them; they live in constant fear; and are stored in cramped boxcars for days at a time while traveling between cities. They are also beaten into submission, as has been documented many times during undercover investigations conducted by animal rights organizations.

Your Turn

Please visit One Green Planet to learn five ways you can help end the use of animals in circuses.

Filed under: Entertainment
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