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Animal rights activists raid RayFish Footwear

Bio-customized stingray leather sneakers from RayFish Footwear.

Bio-customized stingray leather sneakers from RayFish Footwear. (Credit: rayfish.com)

What do you get when you cross a ladybug, a dragon and a stingray? A pair of $16,000 sneakers.

Or at least you would have, if animal rights activists hadn't foiled your plans last weekend.

RayFish Footwear, a family-run company based in Thailand, has been raising bio-customized stingrays for more than a decade with plans to turn them into leather shoes. By implanting synthetic genes based on color patterns of other animals into fetal stingrays, the company has been able to raise rays with predetermined, one-of-a-kind patterns.

An unknown group of animal rights activists broke into the company's facilities Sunday, destroying equipment and sneakers and, according to a YouTube video documenting the break-in, releasing living stingrays into the ocean.

“Does it worry me that genetically engineered stingrays are now free in the ocean, free to be eaten by predators and free to interbreed with wild populations? Absolutely,“ RayFish CEO Raymond Ong said in a video response.

The company's website had been hosting a “Grow your own sneaker” contest, letting shoppers design their own stingray leather sneakers. Participants received emails Wednesday saying that the contest would be suspended until further notice.

“At the moment, we are taking stock of the extent of the activists' damage,“ the email says. “We hope to return to production as soon as possible, and anticipate that the launch of our commercial line should be pushed back by no more than two months.“

According to the online store, a pair of sneakers is currently priced between $14,800 and $16,200, but they will go for about $1,800 once regular production begins in late 2012.

A reward of 40,000 baht (about $1,268) is being offered to anyone who catches the stingrays and returns them.

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