British Queen’s stationer sells endangered lizards’ products

This video says about itself:

The rise and fall of the level of the Nile presents opportunities to many animals to thrive. As its level rises, diverse creatures, from otters to the ferocious looking Nile Monitor get the chance..

From British daily The Independent:

Royal stationer sells gifts made of rare lizard skins

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Monday, 14 July 2008

Smythson, the Queen’s stationer which employs the wife of the Conservative leader, David Cameron, as its creative director, is selling luxury gifts bound with the skins of rare lizards.

The Independent has discovered that the fashionable store is offering its wealthy clientele at least a dozen products made from the hides of wild reptiles for between £250 and £1,200.

Although legal, conservationists say the trade in “exotic leather” is barbaric and damaging to wild populations of scarce species. According to one expert, the animals are often skinned alive. …

Founded in 1887, the retailer has become highly fashionable thanks to Samantha Cameron, and is a supplier to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh – the honorary president of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – and the Prince of Wales. …

At its shops in New Bond Street and Sloane Street in London and online it sells at least a dozen items upholstered with wild lizards. They are not included in brochures nor advertised in store. Smythson declined to identify the species used. But details of import permits for lizards have been obtained from Animal Health, a Government agency, using freedom of information legislation. Three main species have been brought into the UK by businesses: the Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus); common tegu (Tupinambis merianae); and the water monitor (Varanus salvator). All are listed under Appendix II of Cites – although they are not threatened with extinction, their trade must be controlled “in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.

Clifford Warwick, a biologist who has witnessed lizards being snared and then macheted, said: “The hunters will then cut their heads off and skin them. In most cases they are alive when they are skinned.” The animals had such a slow metabolism that when decapitated, they could be alive for up to an hour, he said. “If most people witnessed it they simply wouldn’t buy these things,” he added. “It’s unfortunate when people with such a high profile as the Royal Family are using a shop selling products with such an awful history.”

This news is in line with Prince Harry shooting endangered hen harriers; though not with the aims of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Already in the Sunday Mirror, Jul 30, 2006, the headline:


Lizards of southern Europe: here.

Three arrested in Florida for alligator poaching: here.

After receiving video footage from PETA Asia’s new undercover investigation exposing the extreme suffering caused by the exotic-skins industry, Beaverton-based Nike and its affiliate Cole Haan announced that they will stop selling products that are made from exotic skins: here.

15 thoughts on “British Queen’s stationer sells endangered lizards’ products

  1. Clifford Warwick appears to be claiming that having been cut off from the body, the lizard’s head can somehow feel its distant body being skinned?

    Does he really expect anyone to believe such drivel?

    What he is really reporting is that the lizards, like chickens, will continue to move as a result of nerve and muscle twichings long after their heads have been cut off. They cannot, however, feel anything.

    I wonder if anyone at the Independent actually read this before they printed it??


  2. Hi Nick, are you sure that you have not forgotten your medication? For blaming the messenger, instead of the culprits of cruelty? Contrary to you, Clifford Warwick is a biologist, who knows about effects of metabolism rates in reptiles (named in the article). Maybe you also think torture by the nazis in Sachsenhausen and other concentration camps; or by British and US soldiers and mercenaries in Iraq; are not really a big deal?


  3. I have a degree in biology. I have no clue what Clifford Warwick has in terms of qualifications, and to a great extent that is irrelevant. All that is relevant is whether what he says has some fortm of back up in terms of scientific data.

    Please find me any scientist who claims that when body and head are severed the head can obtain messages of distress from the body!!!!!

    No matter how gross and gruesome the twistings of the body, there is no suffering unless it can be detected by the brain.

    No consciousness – no reality.


  4. Hi Nick, I am happy you acknowledge the reptile skinning industry is “gross and gruesome” now.

    There is much information about Clifford Warwick’s qualifications on the Internet. You might have found out very simply by going here.

    Eg, here:

    “Clifford Warwick’s qualifications are of the highest professional standard and have been granted specifically for research work in reptilian biology, and biological strategies.

    His specialised areas of herpetology include normal ethology, captive reptile behavioural problems, and captivity-stress and stressors. Other research projects and publications include euthanasia, anatomy, physiology, wildlife biology, ecology, and species and environmental conservation.

    He has recently been made a Fellow of the Institute of Biology for his ‘distinction in biological research’. He is regarded by many to be the world’s leading authority on captive reptile behavioural problems, and related issues.”

    “When body and head are severed” of course *both* brain and nerves in the severed body react to that.

    Finally, your sentence “No consciousness – no reality” is, of course, in the philosophiocal sense, “idealism”. Which has a long history in Western thinking, from Plato to Hegel to today, but is nevertheless wrong. Of course there was reality before the first life on earth etc.


  5. I did not say the reptile industry is gross and gruesome. I said:

    “No matter how gross and gruesome the twistings of the body, there is no suffering unless it can be detected by the brain.”

    The problem with Clifford Warwick’s statement:

    “The hunters will then cut their heads off and skin them. In most cases they are alive when they are skinned.”

    is that it implies the reptiles can feel their bodies being skinned when their heads are not attached to those bodies. This is scientific nonsense. Whatever is done to the bodies cannot be felt by the reptile’s brain.

    Finally, when I said:

    “No consciousness – no reality.”

    I was referring to the situation for the reptile’s body.


  6. Hi Nick, I advise you and anyone who may believe that the reptile industry is not gross and gruesome, though its victims’ bodies’ movements are, to read here. And here.

    I think that if someone would propose to behead and skin you, saying that it would not really be bad as your brain would not feel what happened to your body, you would be horrified. Even though your metabolism is not as slow as a reptile’s.


  7. Pro-Bloodsports MP Martin Salter Under Fire During National Anti-Shooting Week

    Posted 24 September 2008

    Date: 27 September 2008
    Time: 12.00 Midday
    Location: Oxford Road, Reading

    On the final day of National Anti-Shooting Week, Animal Aid’s new mascot – Phileas the Pheasant – will be visiting Martin Salter’s to draw attention to the government’s promotion of the cruel ‘sport’ of gamebird shooting.

    Martin Salter is the government’s official parliamentary spokesperson for shooting. In Labour’s 2005 Charter for Shooting, he wrote: ‘ As a political party we want to go much further than merely promising not to restrict shooting. We want to actively encourage people to take up the sports and to develop policies under which they can develop and prosper.’

    More recent statements by key government and party figures confirm that promoting the killing of birds for sport is indeed now government policy.

    At Labour’s 2007 September annual Conference, Salter – who is also a Labour vice chair for the environment – hosted a reception for pro-shoot lobby group, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). And he was recently made a BASC ‘Centenary Patron’. Other ministers who gave pro-shoot speeches at the 2007 Labour conference included the Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe; Rural Affairs Minister, Jonathan Shaw; and Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker.

    Animal Aid is staging National Anti-Shooting Week (22-28 September) to highlight the extreme cruelty involved in the breeding and shooting of ‘gamebirds’. Annually, more than 40 million pheasants and partridges are intensively reared to be used as feathered targets, with hundreds of thousands of breeding birds confined inside metal battery cages.

    A new hard-hitting viral film showing the brutality, wastefulness and greed of the gamebird industry has been sent to every MP by the national campaign group. They are calling on backbench MPs to press the government to change its policy over the shooting of live quarry.

    Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

    ‘The government is applying an irrational double standard to bloodsports – banning hunting with dogs whilst cosying up to the pro-shoot lobby. Martin Salter is at the forefront of this policy and yet has dodged Animal Aid’s requests for a meeting so that he may explain why the mass production and killing of gamebirds for ‘sport’ receives this government’s blessing. Animal Aid’s National Anti-Shooting Week will expose this hypocrisy to people across the country. We have also alerted every Labour backbench MP to the fact that, with Cameron’s Tories on the ascendant, this issue places Labour parliamentary seats at serious risk.’


  8. Skinned to extinction

    Wednesday 13 May, 2009

    Business is booming at Ismail Dauda’s crocodile tannery in northern Nigeria, but environmentalists fear soaring demand for skins could be driving the reptiles to extinction.

    Thirty-five year-old Dauda followed his father Maifata, whose name means ‘The Skin Man’, into the family business of tanning crocodile and python pelts when he was just 15-years-old. At his tannery in the old part of Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano dozens of workers clean and cure the skins. In a good month they look to “process” up to 20,000 animals.

    “We have been tanning snake and crocodile skins here for 120 years, but in the last few years we had a boost in our business… there is more demand and there is more market for it,” Dauda said. Some crocodiles are still alive when they are brought to the tannery. After their jaws are roped together, they are turned on their backs before their throats are slit.

    The meat is sold to people in the south of the country and the skins, once tanned, are exported to India, Saudi Arabia and now to China, to be made into high-quality leather products such as bags and shoes. Processed python skin sells for four dollars a square metre, while a crocodile pelt can bring in between $40 and $170 depending on its size, explained Dauda.He took a wooden pole to stir a pit containing a putrid smelling concoction of ash, potash and soda ash in which scores of python and crocodile skins were being soaked.

    “It is a fact the volume of supplies has dropped in a decade which is perhaps an indication the rate of killing is higher than their regeneration rate, but this is a business we can’t stop because it is very lucrative,” he said.

    Environmental activists are furious that crocodiles might soon face extinction in Nigeria, especially if their hides are simply going to become accessories for the wealthy.

    “The trade is unregulated, is illegal, is not recorded. Two species are almost extinct now,” Mathew Dore, an environmentalist who has worked with crocodiles for more than 25 years, said. He said the Nile crocodile, whose skin carries the most value, is “very, very scarce, almost extinct” in Nigeria, and the last time he saw the rarer long-snouted variety was 20 years ago in a zoo. “The most abundant species now is the West African dwarf crocodile, most commonly found in the Niger Delta, and with all this oil pollution and poverty issues, dependence on the crocodile (market) is continuous and unregulated,” he said from the southern state of Edo.

    It is no coincidence the hide of the West African dwarf crocodile is not so prized for leather goods.

    “Ninety per cent of the skins are from illegally hunted animals,” said the environmental activist Desmond Majekodunmi. “The population has been absolutely decimated. Immediate action needs to be taken, otherwise we will find our crocodile population has gone below the capacity to regenerate itself.”

    Local crocodile stocks have become so depleted hunters are now bringing in animals from Cameroon, Chad and Ghana.

    A 1985 Nigerian law supposed to protect the crocodile and the python does not stop their skins being sold at Lagos airport, right under the eyes of customs agents.“It does not require much effort to clear the skins at the airport. All you need to do is to pay the officials off,” Dauda said. “The officials at the airport… sometimes visit this tannery and we give them some gifts even if we have no goods to export.” Local Nigerian officials blamed the federal government for the failure to enforce the law. “The responsibility of stopping trade in the skins of endangered species such as crocodiles lies with the federal government that controls the airports and security agencies,” state environment commissioner Garba Yusuf said.

    “If the security agencies live up to their duty of arresting and prosecuting offenders, the trade will be stopped because once it becomes impossible to export the skins the demand will drop and the tanners and traders will be out of business.”

    Dore said crocodile farming was virtually unheard of in Nigeria as would-be farmers looking for short-term profitability were often deterred by the gestation period.

    Crocodiles do not reproduce until age five and so a farmer typically has to wait for ten or 15 years until he can start selling animals, said Dore, who tried to breed the animals himself for a decade. The Nile crocodile was listed as ‘Lower Risk’ on the 1996 World Conservation Union list of endangered species.

    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora lists the Nile crocodile as threatened with extinction in certain areas and “not threatened, but trade must be controlled” in others.


  9. Reptile advocate needs to keep up with science

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    What scientific evidence can Michael Shwedick offer for his claim that “reptiles don’t have feelings” [“An engagingly creepy guy,” Metro, Oct. 22]?

    As a biologist (and author of books on animal behavior and emotions), I can offer some science to the contrary. Published studies show that turtles and lizards exhibit an emotional fever response to being handled by an unfamiliar person. The stress of such handling causes their body temperature to rise about 1 degree.

    I urge Mr. Shwedick to take care not to perpetuate unfounded myths about these animals.

    Jonathan Balcombe, Germantown

    The writer works as a consultant on animal welfare issues for the Humane Society and other groups.


  10. We won’t throw blood on Victoria: PETA

    Published: Tuesday, Oct 26, 2010, 15:20 IST

    By Ismat Tahseen | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

    Victoria (Posh) Beckham may have added the right spice to fashion-dom with her luxury labelled cocktail dresses worn by Hollywood actors, but this time the wife of soccer star David Beckham may be in hot water over her new fashion line and the use of animal skin in its making. She has apparently created different pieces from crocodile and lizard skins for her range.

    Victoria was approached by the animal rights organisation PETA to reconsider using reptile skin in her new handbag collection and asked her to watch a video which shows how reptiles are killed and skinned.

    Affirming the news, David Perle, PETA US, says, “We appreciate Victoria Beckham’s rejection of fur (earlier) and had approached her respectfully over the suffering of lizards and other reptiles who are often skinned alive for fashion.” The organisation is awaiting a reply from her. Meanwhile, the issue has gathered steam over earlier reports in a British tabloid that suggested that PETA was going to douse Beckham in lizard blood at a public appearance, leaving PETA members outraged. “It’s an absolutely false story. PETA is not going to throw any blood on Victoria,” states Sachin Bangera, spokesperson of PETA India.

    Seconds David Perle, “PETA UK and PETA US have retained legal counsel in the UK to vigorously pursue The Mirror for deliberately distributing a totally fabricated report about PETA’s plans regarding Victoria Beckham’s collection.”

    Bangera states Indian designers toe the line when it comes to not using animal skin. “There’s nothing fun about wearing dead animals’ skin. Indian designers like Anita Dongre, Hemant Trevedi, Krishna Mehta make trendy outfits without causing animal suffering.”


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