Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action names Xtreme Soccer in investigation
More than a year after Australia’s devastating bushfires, advocates are still trying to save kangaroos.
But they’re not saving these marsupials from the flames; they’re focused on soccer cleats.
There are manufacturers who make those cleats from kangaroo skin. And California is the only state that prohibits the sale of products using kangaroo parts, though companies frequently ignore this law.
One of those companies, according to an allegation by the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action, has a store in Santa Barbara.
The center’s investigation is naming Xtreme Soccer, which has a store on Milpas Street in Santa Barbara as well as its flagship store in Oxnard, for its involvement in selling soccer cleats made from kangaroos.
Wayne Pacelle, the center’s president, named Xtreme Soccer as the “most notable violator” of California Penal Code § 653o during a News-Press interview Monday.
The Center for a Humane Economy contacted Xtreme Soccer’s owner David Mora, who agreed not to display kangaroo-leather shoes but has continued selling them, alleged Jeff Burnside, one of the center’s investigators.
Mr. Mora did not respond to the News-Press’ request for comment.
Prior to the investigation, about two-thirds of soccer-cleat retailers in California sold “k-leather” cleats. After the Center for a Humane Economy contacted them, half of those businesses stopped carrying kangaroo cleats.
“When we began the campaign a year ago, most of them were vaguely aware of it but faintly because no one was enforcing it. Now most of them are violating the law knowingly and egregiously,” Mr. Burnside told the News-Press Monday.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is one of multiple agencies that can enforce the law, but it told the center it relies on specific tips to identify violators.
“If California ban was fully enforced, it would put a huge dent in this global market,” Mr. Burnside said, estimating that California comprises 15% of the U.S. market of soccer shoes.
When manufacturers, such as Nike or Adidas, sell kangaroo-leather shoes to California stores or ship to California addresses, they are also breaking the law.
“The companies should exhibit a measure of social responsibility that they are not sourcing skins from kangaroos living in their native habitats in Australia,” Mr. Pacelle said.
“Ultimately, the solution is for Nike, Adidas, Puma and other manufacturers to make the switch. Once they commit to new policies, then enforcement will not be an issue,” he said.
Diadora, a sportswear and shoe manufacturer based in Italy, agreed to stop manufacturing kangaroo-skin shoes by the end of 2020.
Mr. Pacelle attributes Diadora’s change to the center’s investigation and growing international consumer activism.
Meanwhile, there’s an effort to extend California’s ban across the U.S.
This month, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, alongside Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., introduced the Kangaroo Protection Act. If passed, it would ban kangaroo products nationwide.
“Commercial shooters kill roughly two million wild kangaroos a year to profit from the trade in their skins, despite the availability of alternative fabrics that are of similar or better quality. California has banned the sale of kangaroo products, but enforcement is lacking and shoemakers continue to engage in the cruel practice of kangaroo trafficking,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press Monday. “I introduced the Kangaroo Protection Act to tamp down on this illegal practice and impose penalties for violations.”
At the beginning of February, the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action released a one-minute film by producer Gavin Polone and director Derek Ambrosi that shows the manufacturing of kangaroo-leather shoes. It starts with the kick of a soccer ball and ends with the shot of a gun.
Mr. Pacelle hopes the organizations’ national campaigns will bring more awareness to the industry.
He learned about the issue when large bushfires ravaged Australia.
“We can’t control the fires, but we can control the killing and selling of these animals to Adidas and Nike,” he said.
To see the center’s full investigation, go to kangaroosarenotshoes.org.