EDITORIAL
We are pleased to publish today our first issue of ICFA News, where you will find the latest information about our members, and updates on the main debates concerning our industry.

In this issue, you will discover our progress in farms’ certification, a new step in the implementation of ICFA standards, but also update on Californian debates and the last IUCN call to the luxury industry.

We wish you a pleasant reading and remain at your disposal for any further information:

communication@internationalcrocodilians.com

 
Direct from the farms
CERTIFICATION IN PROGRESS!
 
ICFA members continue to work hard in these difficult times and ICFA is very proud to announce that there are now 11 farms certified according to the ICFA Standards (on February the 1st 2021).
Nathan Wall, in Louisiana, was the first certified ICFA farmer: he has accepted to testify about the certification and its expected benefits. In our further ICFA news issues, farmers working in different countries with different species will answer the same questionnaire. Their achievement demonstrates the commitment of ICFA members to meet the demand for irreproachable quality and sustainable development.
ICFA News interview of Nathan Wall
Did the standards prompt you to make some changes in your farming practices?
The standards prompted us to make a few changes within our operation, but most of the standards were already implemented. Certification process encouraged us to develop the written protocols and records to document our practices. Outside of this, installing a perimeter fence around the farm was our largest adjustment.
What do you expect from the standards implementation?
The standards fell in line with the practices that were already being implemented on the farm, so we did not have any concerns regarding implementation.
Why did you consider the need for certification?
We considered the greatest need for a certification to be a means to solidify the integrity of our farming practices to our suppliers and customers, asserting that we employ the highest animal welfare practices.
How long did it take to obtain the certification?
It depends on how you look at the question. As we were in the process of creating written standards, we made minor changes in the operation of the farm. This process took approximately 6 months, but once we actually applied for certification is was about 6 weeks until we had full certification. We were the first farm that was audited, so some of the time during the 6 week period involved a slight learning curve from the auditors for their processes. Our mutual goal was to ensure the auditors were comfortable with the process as well so that other farms would have a smooth audit.
What did you consider the most demanding in the certification process?
The documentation and paperwork involved with creating written SOPs was extensive.
What is the recent achievement that you are the proudest of?
We were the first farm in the world to become ICFA certified, which is something we will always be proud of. More recently, it is seeing the industry come together in unity with efforts to defend our businesses and support the litigation against California.
Do you gain some benefits from the standards implementation or the certification?
All our customers are requiring the ICFA certification, so without it we would not be able to continue sales as we have during these difficult times. We feel that ICFA is the leading certification body in the world for Crocodilian farms.
Are there fields on which you consider that the standards could be more demanding?
There is always room for standards to be refined as new scientific information emerges. The ICFA standards were written to be able to cover farming practices all around the world and encompass all Crocodilian species. Within that process, it is very difficult to create a uniform set of standards when there are multiple species that must be considered and farming practices among the species can differ.
Industry
The California Legal
Battle Update
 
Good news from California! The ban on crocodile is suspended. In other words, the prohibition of “selling and trading crocodile and alligator hides (as much as products made from leather)” is temporarily cancelled.
 
Effective January 2020, the State of California intended to prohibit the sale of alligator or crocodile products under an outdated penal code. The ban originated in 1967 when there was concern that crocodilian species were at risk of extinction. During that time, created a law (Penal Code 653o) to protect the animals that included banning the importation or distribution of alligators and crocodiles (and products made from their leather) in California. Over the years since 1967, after crocodilians recovered completely from endangered species status, the ban’s implementation was delayed with a series of temporary exemptions called Sunset Clauses. In 2020, the sunset clause was set to expire, and the ban would have gone into effect in January.
 
Today, the commercially traded species of crocodilians have completely recovered from endangered species status. Mainstream conservation organizations around the world have also recognized the crocodilian trade for more than four decades as proactively addressing research, management, enforcement, compliance, trade monitoring and conservation education.
 
California’s actions would have been detrimental to nearly fifty years of wildlife conservation of crocodilians, wetlands restoration in the southeastern United States, and habitat protection for many species of birds, mammals, and fish who depend on private landowners to preserve the marsh with income derived from the alligator farming trade.
 
In response to the impending ban and implementation of 653o, two lawsuits were filed in US Federal Court by multiple industry stakeholders and the State of Louisiana in an effort to halt the ban from being implemented. The legal argument of the lawsuit was that California did not have the legal grounds to supersede US Federal law, which explicitly allows trade in CITES Appendix II crocodilians for commercial purposes.
 
In October of 2020, Federal Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled in favor of the industry on the grounds of the “supremacy clause” of the US Constitution. The clause establishes that the Constitution of the United States and federal laws take priority over any state laws conflicting with federal legislation. In the present case, judges have acknowledged the priority of the United States federal law (16 U.S. Code § 1535), over California state law (California Penal Code 653o).
 
The court was strongly encouraged by a letter from formers CITES secretary generals (Eugene Lapointe – 1982 to 1990 – and Willem Wijnstekers – 1999 to 2010) who claimed that this decision is “completely responsible, and consistent with global directions in conservation, which the United States of America has helped shape within CITES”. The United States Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also supported the Judge’s decision.
 
Christy Plott, the 4th generation of American Tanning who rules the oldest US-based tannery considers that this victory is good in an ecological standpoint, “since it helps maintain the habitat and survival of the species itself. The history of the conservation of US alligators is a potent example of the success of collaborating at an international level, with scientific basis. It involves organizations such as FAO, WTO, UNEP, CITES, IUCN”. A collaboration that was based on “decades of hard work and scientific proof”. As other professionals from the industry, she believes that “a single state does not have the right to destabilize such systems, especially since the argumentations made by California aren’t based on solid proof”.
Conservation
Conservationists are Mobilizing
to Support the Exotic Skin
Luxury Industry
 
The exotic skin industry is facing increasing hostility from opponents around the world, who seek to stop the use of wildlife. Paradoxically, conservation objectives of numerous endangered species are successfully reached thanks to this industry. This is what IUCN experts explain in a letter sent to the luxury groups CEOs.
ICFA News is happy to share the letter, signed by the heads of the “species survival commissions” from the IUCN, the reference worldwide environmental organization.

 

Dear Luxury CEO,
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a global membership organization that brings together governments and civil society to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. It harnesses the experience, resources, and reach of its 1,400 Member organisations and the input of nearly 17,000 experts. This diversity and vast expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. IUCN has observer status at the United Nations and plays a key role in several international conventions on nature conservation and biodiversity.
 
Within the IUCN, the Species Survival Commission is a science-based network of more than 9,600 volunteer experts, distributed in 164 groups in 174 countries, all working together towards achieving the vision of “A just world that values and conserves nature through positive action to reduce the loss of diversity of life on earth”. Some of SSC’s groups address conservation issues related to plants, fungi or animals, while others focus on issues such as reintroduction of species into former habitats, wildlife health, climate change or sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity.
 
We write to you to express our concern about the decisions taken by some luxury fashion groups to ban or cease to use the skins of wild animals, such as crocodiles, alligators, snakes, and lizards. Firstly, the scientific evidence shows that the trade in those skins is in fact sustainable, contributes to wildlife conservation and recovery, and supports the livelihood of local communities. Secondly, there has been a concerted push to ban exotic skin use due to misinformation about COVID19 transmission. There is no evidence, however, that reptiles transmit zoonotic diseases like coronaviruses. We are constantly working on developing the best evidence base to support public policies regarding the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, but we are afraid that data do not support decisions made by luxury fashion brands to stop using precious skins.
 
The benefits that trade in precious skins and exotic leathers provide to nature and people, as well as to the adoption of UN Sustainable Development Goals, are supported by scientific evidence. This trade is one of the great conservation success stories of our time. Species once close to extinction have recovered and are now subject to meticulous management.
 
The demand from luxury brands for reptile skins has indirectly built this industry into what it is today. Some companies may not have realized and foreseen these benefits, but their involvement fueled the conservation actions that were and still are needed. We are now experiencing the negative consequences of luxury fashion companies abandoning the use of these raw materials, which extend through the supply chains to local communities unable to adapt to change.
 
While improvements can and will continue to be made in supply chains, the reptile skin trade today is supporting and encouraging sophisticated and innovative science-based management programs, that provide incentives for people to protect the species they rely on for their income and livelihoods. Legal trade also encourages people to value and protect natural habitats and ecosystems, rather than converting them to intensive forms of land use. This has the knock-on effect of conserving the rest of biodiversity and ecosystem services that those habitats offer.
 
The legal trade provides sustainable livelihoods for millions of people around the planet, many of them impoverished and living in remote areas, with few if any alternatives for a cash income. The meat of reptiles used for leather is utilized by people, providing an important source of protein and food security. This is the very humanitarian problem the UN Sustainable Development Goals encourages corporations to address. This trade, already dependent on the engagement of luxury fashion brands, provides livelihood security in times of economic uncertainty and resource volatility, and buffers rural people against the looming threat of climate change.
 
As corporations become increasingly conscious and responsible about sourcing, begin to seek compliance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and move towards net positive sourcing practices for biodiversity, we strongly encourage the luxury fashion industry to consider the benefits that this trade generates in favor of species, ecosystems and people. The industry would thus ensure that sourcing decisions are judged in their entirety as part of holistic and evidence-based Corporate Responsibility policies.
 
The IUCN SSC works closely with many luxury fashion groups to ensure sustainable trade in reptile leather. We look forward to working with you to redouble our efforts to promote evidence-based decision-making and the immense benefits that you generate.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Reminder
What is ICFA?
Founded in 2016, the International Crocodilian Farmers’ Association (ICFA) is a not-for-profit association. ICFA’s objective is to advance and promote sustainable crocodilian farming practices around the world. It strives to continuously improve animal welfare conditions on farms, increase biodiversity on our planet, and create jobs in rural communities which depend on natural resources for economic development. ICFA promotes and funds research to improve scientific knowledge in a variety of fields such as animal welfare, herpetology, and conservation.
The association is supported by major luxury brands, tanneries, manufacturers and business associations seeking to implement the highest ethical standards in our industry and ensure sustainable sourcing objectives are met in their supply chains.
 
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