The Western Cape of South Africa is known as the ostrich killing capital of the world.
An undercover team at PETA traveled to South Africa to film inside the largest ostrich slaughter company in the world. The Western Cape of South Africa is the ostrich killing capital of the world, containing slaughter houses where 75% of the world’s ostrich leather, feathers, and meat comes from. The slaughter houses provide skins to top fashion brands such as Hermès, Prada and Louis Vuitton. A voice in their undercover video can be heard stating, “They would never tell you where their bags’ skin came from. But we are the one who supply for the best luxury groups. LVMH, Hermes. They don’t want us to tell but for Hermès yes for sure. For the Birkin in ostrich it’s always Klein Karoo.”
Once inside an ostrich slaughterhouse that provides skins to Prada, a worker can be seen standing next to a dead ostrich hanging up and pointing to the raised skin its back, saying, “this part is the diamond area, this is where the money is made…this goes into a handbag or a pair of shoes or whatever…” The footage also shows three-day-old chicks squashed together in a crate, stating that they will eventually be turned into designer wallets, boots, and belts.
In the wild, ostriches will stay with their mother and father for up to three years, but on the production farms they will never even get to meet their parents. Instead, they are kept in feed lines where they are tagged, as if they are “walking merchandise”. They are the largest birds in the world, flightless and the fastest land animals on two legs. The males and females are very loyal and attentive parents, with both sharing all of the chick rearing responsibilities. This includes sitting on the eggs, as the dark feathered males will take the night shift and then the females will guard the eggs during the day, as their lighter feathers camouflage into the environment more easily during the daylight hours. In the wild, ostriches can live for more than 40 years, but in the ostrich industry, they are slaughtered and skinned just after their first birthday when they are merely juveniles.
A manager at a major ostrich supply farm says that ostriches have a “highly intelligent behavior, social behavior, not dumb birds. I have a lot of respect for ostrich. They are smart and sensitive. We as human beings can also learn from them.” Despite this, the PETA video shows a scene where the ostriches are crammed into an open-topped vehicle to be transported to the slaughterhouse and shows a worker striking one of the ostriches in the head as they travel to the facility that provides for Prada.
The ostriches will often have their feathers plucked out while they are still alive and conscious. The feathers from the ostrich’s body will then be used as feather dusters, while the feathers from their wing plumes are used in costumes for the Moulin Rouge and festivals such as Brazil’s Rio Carnival. PETA investigators saw the workers forcing the terrified ostriches into stun boxes, which often caused many to slip and fall, before slitting their throats. The remaining ostriches waiting in line to be slaughtered can even see what is going on ahead. When the ostriches stumbled over a collapsed flock mate outside a slaughterhouse, a plant director joked, “I’ll call the animal welfare officer just now.”
Head to Peta.org to pressure designer brands to stop using ostrich leather and other exotic skins in their collections.