You may have seen Kylie Minogue with a $3000 gold python Zagliani bag in the social pages of the glossy magazines recently, this causing so much controversy that Peta's Dan Matthews wrote Kylie an open letter in major newspapers explaining how the pythons were killed for her bag.
Snakeskin has been very in-demand lately— designers like Calvin Klein, Prada, Fendi, YSL, and Roberto Cavalli have all made use of it on their bags and shoes.
The Daily Mail newspaper in London ran a full page report on the issue and their investigative reporter found the following horrifying facts after witnessing it first hand:
Pythons skinned alive and left to die in agony. Alligators killed with hammers and chisels. This is the truly shocking reality behind fashion's shameful new obsession.
At a slaughterhouse, deep in the Javanese jungle, blood-stained hands untie a wriggling sack and pull out a ten-foot long python.
The snake is stunned with a blow to the head from the back of a machete and a hose pipe expertly forced between its jaws. Next, the water is turned on and the reptile fills up — swelling like a balloon.
It will be left like that for ten minutes or so, a leather cord tied around its neck to prevent the liquid escaping.
Then its head is impaled on a meat hook, a couple of quick incisions follow, and the now-loosened skin peeled off with a series of brutal tugs - much like a rubber glove from a hand.
From there the skin will be sent to a tannery before being turned into luxury shoes or handbags. Finally, they will be snapped up by an army of pampered Western fashionistas desperate for the latest look and happy to pay thousands of pounds to get it.
Meanwhile, back in Indonesia, the python's peeled body is simply tossed on a pile of similarly stripped snakes. After a day or two of unimaginable agony it will die from the effects of shock or dehydration.
Barbaric, cruel, stomach turning - those are just a few of the words used by those who have witnessed snakes being skinned alive.
The snakes are often nailed to a tree with a large nail. It doesn't kill them because they have a small brain and there's little chance of actually hitting it.
The hunters then slice round the base of the head and peel the skin clean off the live animal and then throw the still-living carcass onto a pile and leave it to die. It can take hours or days for them to die from dehydration or shock.
In other places they will decapitate the animal before skinning. The problem is that decapitating the snake doesn't kill it instantly.
With a snake the head will be alive for an hour or two hours - completely conscious, completely sensitive to pain, fear and everything else.
That comes about because their metabolic rate is much lower and slower than ours and accustomed to low blood pressure. The nervous system is quite resistant to lack of oxygen and continues to survive without its body for some time.'
Consider the plight of the reticulated python, the most popular of snakes when it comes to the manufacture of shoes and handbags. Found primarily in South East Asia, it is the world's longest snake, with exceptional specimens growing up to 30 ft in length. It is fast growing, has a beautifully patterned skin and has been plentiful in the past. However, experts warn that the population is under severe threat. This year, for instance, it stipulated that 157,000 reticulated python skins could be exported from Indonesia.
To be sentient and to experience being skinned alive, or beheaded, or having one's limbs cut off - retaining full consciousness for some time afterwards, one cannot begin to imagine the suffering involved. (It's a hell of a price to pay for the sake of a ridiculous fashion item, watch strap or belt!)