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PARIS (Reuters) - Actress and singer Jane Birkin has asked Hermes to remove her name from one of the luxury goods maker's best-selling bags due to what she called "cruel" crocodile farming and slaughtering practices.
"I have asked Hermes to rename the Birkin Croco until they adopt better practices that meet international standards for the production of this bag," Birkin said in a statement to the media on Tuesday.
Birkin said she had signed actor Joaquin Phoenix's Mercy For Animals petition to "shed exotic skins from your wardrobe" in protest against the "millions of reptiles slaughtered each year and turned into shoes, handbags, belts and other accessories".
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said it had released a video, narrated by Phoenix and which Birkin had seen, showing how live reptiles were skinned or sawed open on farms that supplied luxury brands.
Hermes said the crocodile skins it sourced from a Texas farm in the video were not used for Birkin bags and stressed that it did not own that farm.
The luxury brand also said that an investigation was being conducted into the farm's practices and that "any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned."
Hermes said it imposed on its suppliers the highest ethical standards regarding the treatment of crocodiles and for more than a decade, had conducted monthly checks on them to ensure that they were respected.
"Hermes respects and shares her (Jane Birkin's) emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast," it said in a statement.
"Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for so many years."
Birkin agreed to lend her name to the bag after sharing a flight with the charismatic late head of Hermes, Jean-Louis Dumas, in the 1980s.
The crocodile Birkin and the Kelly bag, named after actress Grace Kelly, are among the most sought-after luxury goods - even though the starting retail price is more than 20,000 euros ($22,096) - partly because shops routinely run out of them.
Customers can obtain one either by putting their name on a waiting list or by paying hefty fees to specialised buyers who scout for the bags on their behalf.
A fuchsia Hermes crocodile Birkin bag with a diamond-studded clasp and lock set a record as the most expensive handbag ever sold at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong last month, fetching $222,000.
Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Susan Thomas and Tom Brown