When most people in the United States think of the kangaroo, they think of an animal far away, roaming through the outback in peace, their only threat being the few natural predators they have. However, many people may not realize that they themselves may own leather made from the skin of kangaroos, notably soccer cleats, which are most commonly made from kangaroo skin. These everyday consumers likely have no idea that their purchases contributed to the largest commercial slaughter of mammals in the world.
Nearly 2 million kangaroos are killed in Australia annually, along with roughly 400,000 joeys (baby kangaroos) for the use of kangaroo skin, or k-leather. Large sportswear companies such as Adidas use kangaroos to produce some models of soccer cleats. Currently, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation does not allow for mass killing of wildlife in their native habitats for the sale of their parts in global commerce. While the United States holds this standard with other animal pelts, this is unfortunately currently not enforced with kangaroos.
The slaughter of these animals is done quite inhumanely. Commercial hunters kill joeys of slain mother kangaroos by blunt force trauma to the head, typically by the force of their own boot. Additionally, a large percentage of kangaroos are “mis-shot”, flee with terrible injuries, and later die long and painful deaths. This commercial hunt is in no way regulated and is not supported by RSPCA and Australian animal welfare groups.
Synthetic materials are available and used effectively in other models of cleats. The availability of such comparable alternatives make the use of k-leather even more unnecessary and frustrating. Other large companies, such as Nike and Puma, have pledged to stop the use of kangaroo-leather in all their models by 2023 and 2025, respectively. Diadora has already completely stopped using k-leather in their products. These announcements come in part because of pressure put on companies from groups such as HAP in collaboration with Animal Wellness Action and The Center for a Humane Economy. These efforts make it very clear that the use of kangaroo skin can be avoided in the production of these sportswear products. Pressure is now largely on Adidas, the only remaining large sportswear company who has yet to make any similar commitments. Additionally, HAP has the goal to secure a commitment from Dick’s Sporting Goods to pledge never to use kangaroo skin in their products (they currently do not, but have not made a formal commitment) and consider not carrying kangaroo-leather cleats of other brands.
Proposed Upcoming Legislation
The Kangaroo Protection Act would ban the importation of kangaroo products into the United States for commercial use with the intent to sell. While this bill has not been passed yet, there is hope that it can be in the near future. California has had a ban on k-leather since 1971, and states such as New Jersey, Vermont, Oregon, and Connecticut. are considering doing the same. Humane Action Pittsburgh is currently working to get Pennsylvania on this list as well!
How to Help
While the killing of these animals may seem distant and out of reach for the average consumer to make a difference, there are several ways in which you can get involved in the efforts against kangaroo skin. First and foremost, check the materials of sportswear, specifically cleats, when you purchase them to make sure they are made of synthetic materials. That being said, be sure to educate your friends to do the same! The more people who are aware of the issue, the more tractic the bill can get in the future. Additionally, keep an ear out for Action Alerts from HAP in the next few months regarding this bill. Lastly, you can give a monetary donation to HAP to support our organization’s efforts to get this bill passed. We will need all the help we can get in ensuring that kangaroo skin is no longer sold in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States.