Credit: Farm Transparency Project
A crocodile peers through the bars of their barren cage in an Australian crocodile farm.

Understanding the issues: Crocodile Farming.

His true home is the great outdoors. But every day in Australia, crocodiles in factory farms are denied a life worth living. These wild, intelligent animals are being exploited and abused for the global fashion industry. Here’s what you need to know about crocodile farming.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated January 21, 2024

A hidden tragedy unfolding.

Just minutes away from where millions travel to experience the enchanting landscapes and wildlife of Australia’s top end, thousands of native crocodiles are confined in desolate battery cages, forced into lives of deprivation and killed in unimaginable ways. 

These powerful apex predators, who have helped shape Australia’s unique biodiversity, are being reduced to a life of misery and killed for the sake of profit.

Crocodiles were hunted for their skins to near collapse in the 50s and 60s. But rather than stop the exploitation of this 100-million-year-old species as it teetered on the brink of extinction or curb the fashion industry’s hunger for their skins the Australian Government supported a cruel new factory farming industry, one that continues to slaughter crocodiles for ‘fashion’ today 

Each year, tens of thousands of crocodiles are taken from their natural habitats in the wild and raised in factory farms. In the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland, the crocodile skin industry is farming crocodiles at an alarming rate, slaughtering just over 150,000 of these sensitive animals annually and fuelling 60% of the world’s crocodile skin trade.  

Australian crocodiles suffer to drive the profits of global fashion juggernauts like Hermès and Louis Vuitton. Their skins are used to make bags that sell for tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. The fashion industry only desires the skin from the underside, or ‘belly’ of the crocodile. The ‘rest’ of this incredible animal is sometimes sold to people in restaurants and cafes, but most is turned into pet food. 

The crocodile skin industry’s claims of ‘conservation’ and ‘humane’ practices are nothing more than a deceptive greenwashing tactic. In reality, it ruthlessly profits from the undeniable suffering of these sentient animals.

An aerial shot of a crocodile farm in Australia with dozens of sheds.
Farm Transparency Project
A lone crocodile confined in a barren farming crate on an Australian crocodile farm.
Farm Transparency Project
A lone crocodile enclosed in a small, dark and barren pen in an Australian crocodile farm.
Farm Transparency Project

Robbed of their wild life: The reality of crocodile farms.

Crocodiles are unique, fascinating individuals.

Despite their rugged appearance and seemingly ‘sedentary’ lifestyles, crocodiles are sensitive beings, who like any other animal, deserve our care and protection. Crocodiles use their skin to sense movement in the water and communicate. Every one of them has a unique personality, and they ‘talk’ to each other using complex sounds and visual cues.  

Crocodiles even engage in play, with some observed enjoying a surf, or giving their fellow friend a ‘piggy back’. And even though crocodiles have the strongest bite of the animal kingdom, a mother crocodile is nurturing and very maternal – she is extremely gentle with her babies, delicately placing them in her mouth as newborns, and carrying them carefully to water to start their new life.  

They have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Considered ‘kin’, crocodiles have cultural significance and are a totemic species for some First Nations and Torres Strait Islander communities who hold them in high esteem, with a deep, healthy respect for each individual 

If you see a crocodile out there and it's got a big shell on the forehead, that is the owner. She or he owns this land here.
A crocodile sitting on sandy bank, next to a river
Aunty Priscilla Major, local Kowanyama elder and traditional owner
Living with Crocodiles: Engagement with a Powerful Reptilian Being

This image contains content which some may find confronting

An aerial shot of a crocodile swimming in a river, with green mangroves on either side.
Crocodiles in Australia walk tens of kilometers a day (some as far as 100 kilometres inland) but they prefer water. Some crocodiles are known to swim over 900 kilometers.
Image credit: LKR Photography
Crocodiles are smart. They have a good memory. They remember if they are treated badly, or if they are treated well.
Multhara Mununggurr, Traditional Owner, Garrthalala

How are crocodiles farmed?

Crocodiles and their eggs are taken from Australian bushland and forced into farms every year. In the Northern Territory alone, up to 70,000 eggs and 140 live crocodiles can be taken from the wild, annually. 

Farmed crocodiles are stripped of any contact with their natural habitat, and are instead raised in barren, prison-like conditions. 

 After the eggs hatch, baby crocodiles are put into crowded, filthy concrete ponds. As they grow, they are moved into solitary concrete pens, or tight wire cages that bear no resemblance to their natural environments. Referred to by the industry as ‘grow-out’ pens, these concrete confines and cages have very little water, and are designed purely to keep the crocodile’s skin blemish-free, to make them more ‘visually appealing’ to the fashion industry.

In the wild, crocodiles can live for up to 70 years. In factory farms, they are slaughtered when they are just 2-3 years old.  Dragged from their barren ‘prison cells’, young crocodiles are shot in their head. A knife is then used to sever their spine. Then, a metal rod is pushed through their heads to ‘scramble’ their brains. Investigation footage has shown some crocodiles aren’t killed instantly during this painful ordeal, with one seen trying to stand for nearly a minute afterwards.    

At every stage of the ‘farming process’, crocodiles are deprived of everything they need and crave from their natural environments. They cannot control their own access to sun or shade. They never feel the ground or a river bank under their feet. They will never swim long distances to find a mate. 

Farmed crocodiles share the very same behavioural, physical and mental needs of their wild relatives. But in factory farms, they live a life of deprivation and chronic frustration. 

From growing up, seeing them in their natural habitat, living up to their full potential to then, these dirty dingy ponds….it’s a huge contrast… was a shock seeing crocodiles being treated like that.
Donny Imberlong, a Jaru man and former worker at a Darwin Crocodile Farm.

In 2019, Hermès, who owns 5 of the 8 crocodile farms in the Northern Territory, claimed to have worked with farms over the past six years to ‘improve crocodile welfare. But just two years later, footage captured by Farm Transparency Project in 2021 exposed the reality – that crocodiles continue to suffer immensely in Australia’s top end all for a handbag.

Watch this short video, then read on to see how you can help end crocodile cruelty in Australia.

A crocodile peers up from a factory farm pen, which is filthy with brown stains - the water is blood red.
Farm Transparency Project
Juvenile crocodiles are crowded together in a barren and dirty concrete pen in a farm in Australia.
Farm Transparency Project
Crocodiles in cages in the dark, in an Australian crocodile farm.
Farm Transparency Project
Bottom Left: Juvenile crocodiles in a concrete pond at a crocodile factory farm in Darwin, NT. 2021
Bottom Right: Thousands of crocodiles are kept in small, wire cages for most of their life, until their slaughter.

Operations scaling up, with no protection in sight.

Making a single Hermès Birkin bag involves the slaughter of 3 to 4 crocodiles. Originating in 1984, the bag was relatively unknown to the masses; it took 17 years and a fateful episode of HBO’s Sex and The City to shoot this bag to fame. Now, lauded as a status symbol of wealth and success, crocodiles are paying the ultimate price.  

The sudden popularity of this one fashion item marked a tragic chapter in crocodile farming – causing a surge in the number of crocodiles farmed for their skin.  

Tragically, the bag’s popularity continues to climb, and in 2021, Hermès’ plans to farm 50,000 more crocodiles were approved by the Northern Territory government.  

Both wild and farmed crocodiles still receive little to no protection, or true considerations for their wellbeing in Australia.  

Current codes of practice still allow wild crocs to be shot for ‘skin and meat’ sales or torn from their homes and placed in crocodile farms as ‘breeders’, or their skins. Our laws also allow thousands of crocodile eggs to be taken from the wild every year.  

The current code doesn’t even require that farmed crocodiles be afforded the length of their own body to live in. The failing codes allow fashion companies and farmers to boast ‘high welfare standards’ when their farming facilities may only marginally exceed the extremely poor government requirements.

There are kinder fashion alternatives.  

How we choose to see crocodiles, and our fashion choices, have the power to free these evolutionary marvels from a life of deprivation and suffering. Following campaigns from caring consumers, luxury fashion brands like Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Diane Von Fustenberg, Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria Beckham have all stopped using crocodile skins as well as fur in their collections.  

There are innovative, sustainable alternatives to crocodile ‘leather’ that are now widely available and growing in popularity. Apple leather, processed mango waste, mycelium and other bio-materials can be embossed to replicate the scales of crocodiles while leaving these magnificent and beautiful animals to live in the wild. 

How you can help secure a kinder future for crocodiles.  

Education ends cruelty. Many people don’t know Hermès owns crocodile farms in Australia, or the terrible suffering that crocodiles endure to become bags and shoes. Your choice to read this article is already starting to create a kinder world for crocodiles in Australia, and beyond.

Here are more things you can do to help free crocodiles from cruelty today:

  • Share this article to help inform others about crocodile farming in Australia, and what they can do to help.  
  • Support Defend the Wild’s Drop Croc Campaign and add your name to thousands of others asking Hermes to stop exploiting Australian crocodiles for bags.  
  • Write a personal email to the Northern Territory and Queensland Governments, asking them to transition to more sustainable, kinder alternatives to crocodile farming.
  • Speak up against crocodile cruelty. The Australian Government is currently reviewing the Code of Practice for the treatment of wild and farmed Australian crocodiles. You can make a submission to this review here – let the Australian Government know you don’t support crocodiles being farmed for their skins.