Image: Celine

THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) was refused entrance to an LVMH shareholder meeting last week after announcing that it would challenge the use by the conglomerate’s fashion brands of crocodile and ostrich skins for their accessories. LVMH – which owns Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Pucci, and Berluti, among other brands – held its Annual General Meeting on April 13, during which it recapped its 2016 financials, and discussed its strategy and outlook for 2017 and beyond, including environmental objectives.

According to a statement from PETA earlier this month, one of its representatives planned to attend the meeting in order to inquire about LVMH’s reliance on Vietnam crocodile farms — including two that have supplied skins to a tannery owned by LVMH — which are subjecting animals to an array of abuses, as well as its use (and alleged abuse) of ostriches. However, on Wednesday, PETA reported that its “representative was refused entrance to the main meeting room and denied the opportunity to ask board members a question about the company’s appalling use of exotic-animal skins.”

While the exact rights of shareholders tend to vary by company and in accordance with the size and nature of each party’s stake, PETA has held that its acquisition of a single share in LVMH in January ensures it entrance to the Paris-based conglomerate’s annual shareholder meeting. After being excluded from Wednesday’s meeting, PETA told TFL exclusively that it is exploring potential legal action.

PETA’s Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman told TFL in a statement: “Companies will go to great lengths to avoid their shareholders hearing about the suffering that animals endure at their hands. PETA may have been barred from asking a question in violation of the rules required of publicly traded companies, and so we are exploring our legal options.”

It is worth noting that PETA was permitted entrance to Hermes’ annual shareholder meeting in May 2016, after acquiring a small stake in the famed luxury brand – a single share for $360 – in 2015. At the May 2016 meeting, a representative for PETA inquired as to whether Hermès planned to stop using exotic skins, including those of ostriches, to which Hermès CEO Axel Dumas said, “Farming conditions strictly comply with international regulations because we want to apply the best practices in this field, and I think that Hermès has always been at the forefront of wanting to pay attention to ethics and the treatment of animals.”

As for PETA’s plans going forward in connection with LVMH, Reiman said: “We will also be present at future annual meetings to put pressure on board members until the company agrees to stop slitting baby ostriches’ throats and ramming metal rods down live crocodiles’ spines before skinning them alive. We have much more up our sleeve, as the company will see. Behind every one of LVMH’s bags made from exotic-animal skins are short, miserable lives of deprivation and violent deaths.”

LVMH was not immediately available for comment.