WARNING: This article contains graphic images some readers may find disturbing.
Ostrich leather products are some of the most sought after in the fashion world, with luxury brands like Hermes and Prada selling their most expensive bags in the exotic leather.
But animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is trying to stop the fashion world from using ostrich leather products, by releasing a graphic undercover video taken from inside an ostrich slaughterhouse.
In the video, a woman can be heard telling someone from Peta that luxury brands do not want the public to know how their ostrich products are made.
The woman, who is presumably an employee of ostrich leather producer Klein Karoo, said: "They would never tell you where their bags' skin come from. But we are the one who supply for the best luxury groups, ya. LVMH, Hermes...They don't want us to tell, but Hermes, yes, for sure. For the Birkin in ostrich, it's always Klein Karoo."
According to Peta, the Western Cape of South Africa is the "ostrich killing capital of the world", where 75 per cent of the world's ostrich leather, feathers and meat comes from.
The most lucrative part is the skin, Peta says. One employee from a slaughterhouse can be seen pointing to the skin, saying: "This is where the money is made".
Peta's undercover reporter says that ostrich chicks at the production houses never get to meet their parents, and ostriches are kept in barren dirt feed lots. Their feathers are plucked out while they are alive. Those on their bodies are used for feather dusters, while the wing plumes are used for boas in parades like Mardi Gras or shows like the Moulin Rogue.
The flightless birds are allegedly killed when they are about one year old.
Ostriches are loaded into trucks and driven to the slaughterhouse. In the Peta video, a worker can be seen striking a bird on the way to its killing.
The ostriches are then forced into a box to be electrically stunned, while others wait in line for their turn. The video shows them being handled roughly in a bloody factory. After being stunned, a worker then cuts the ostrich's throat and blood starts to pour out of its neck.
According to the Daily Mail, Hermes has slammed the video, calling its accusations "groundless".
"Contrary to what the video broadcast by the association suggests, the farms shown in the videos do not belong to Hermès," a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
"Hermès operates at a secondary level within this industry and the small quantities of ostrich leather used by Hermès do not come from farms but tanneries which, as per all Hermès suppliers, are subject to permanent and stringent controls."
The luxury brand added that it "deplores the relentless attacks by PETA aiming to harm its reputation through a dishonest representation of the fact".