PETA is best known for protests and horrifying videos depicting animal cruelty, but one of the organizations biggest moves lately is extremely unexpected. Thursday, PETA bought a single share of Hermès the publicly-traded luxury accessories label that produces the iconic Birkin bag in a range of exotic animal skins.
The Birkin, named after British actress and activist Jane Birkin, has been all over the news this week when its famous namesake requested that her name be disassociated from the crocodile incarnation of the bag after seeing PETA-released footage from a croc farm where the reptiles are allegedly slaughtered for their skin. Birkin has no legal sway to compel Hermès to change the name, but her request captured the eyes, hearts, and retweets of her millions of fans worldwide and was likely the catalyst for PETA's recent stock market shopping spree.
According to WWD, Hermès "traditionally holds its annual general meeting in May or June," which is nearly a year away, so it's possible that PETA made this move now to follow on the incredible amount of attention the company, and animal rights, have received from Birkin's recent stand.
So why essentially give money to a company that the organization has been so avidly — and vocally — against? "PETA choses to act as shareholder and have a presence in board meetings only as necessary if a company isn't making forward progress on animal welfare issues," Anne Kellogg, a Senior Corporate Liason for PETA, told Bustle this afternoon. "As a shareholder in Hermes, we'll demand a ban on exotic animal skins."
And with prices for a single share in Hermès listed at around $375 USD on the day of purchase, that's a small price to pay for an opportunity to try to affect change from the inside — certainly less than most anything else sold by the brand, whose bags, like the Birkin, can cost as much as $432,000.
PETA also famously bought shares in Seaworld, and owns stakes in more than 80 companies. "We own stock in dozens of company including high end brands, like Tesla," Kellogg tells Bustle. The organization used their position as shareholders to encourage the luxury car maker to offer vegan interiors in it's otherwise eco-friendly vehicles.
For fans of luxury that are looking for animal-friendly options, PETA recommends Stella McCartney, headed by lifelong vegan and Paul McCartney's daughter. For die-hard fans of the iconic silhouette, accessories label Freedom of Animals has recently come out with a vegan version of the Birkin bag, cheekily dubbed the "Virkin," that, for the record, at $400 it's as wallet-friendly as it is animal-friendly — and there's no wait list.
A spokesperson for Hermes could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.