Editor’s note: Wayne Pacelle is president of the Center for a Humane Economy and a two-time New York Times bestselling author.
Here’s a startling statistic for consumers of athletic footwear: There are more than two million kangaroos killed every year in their native habitats in Australia for their “kicks.”
More precisely, for soccer shoes.
U.S. Reps, Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, last week teamed up to introduce legislation in Congress to ban trade in kangaroo parts in the U.S.
In introducing the Kangaroo Protection Act, Rep. Carbajal noted that commercial shooters amass this body count of “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.”
The practice of selling kangaroo skin shoes is legal in 49 states. But not in California.
The Center for a Humane Economy released a report last year that documents scores of on-going violations of California’s ban on selling body parts of 22 species of kangaroos and wallabies (CA Penal Code 653o).
California lawmakers, and now Congressmen Carbajal and Fitzpatrick, have said this wildlife killing must end. Their plight came into sharper focus after the calamitous fires that killed more than three billion wild animals in Australia more than a year ago.
While addressing climate change won’t be easy, stopping the commercial killing of kangaroos is. Between them, Nike, Adidas, Mizuno, Pantofola d’Oro, New Balance, Puma, Umbro and Lotto make a total of 72 models of kangaroo-skin soccer shoes. (Diadora stopped using kangaroo skins at the end of 2020.)
Shooters kill the animals at night, using spotlights and night-vision technology. When the shooters kill the females, they doom hundreds of thousands of joeys or baby kangaroos. The dependent young, without their slain mothers able to protect them or to carry them to safety, die from bludgeoning, decapitation or starvation.
In fact, this is the largest land-based commercial wildlife slaughter on the planet — 10 times larger than the infamous seal hunts in Atlantic Canada.
And imagine this. During Australia’s wildfires, while the world was donating to rescue animals, shooters were killing wild kangaroos to supply shoe manufacturers. Even right now, as rescued kangaroos and joeys are being released from shelters back into their native habitat, they risk being shot for soccer shoes.
The kangaroo leather soccer shoe was an innovation in the 1960s. Now with high tech synthetics and fabrics that perform better, it’s archaic as a matter of performance, comfort and ethics.
The killing of kangaroos occurs on a continent nearly the size of the U.S., but with less than 1/10th of the population — in fact, California has one-and-half times as many people as Australia. The continent has vast areas with a sparse human presence where kangaroos and other marsupials and other distinctive wildlife can flourish, as they have for millennia.
It’s people who have changed the narrative, demonizing the gentle and inoffensive kangaroos. The kangaroo-killing industry comes to the debate with the presumption that the native grasses are there for domesticated cattle and sheep, fences are there to keep out wildlife, foreign markets are there to enable economic gain, and firearms are there to have the final say.
We must move on from the idea of killing wildlife for parts and profit. No longer do we tolerate the mass killing of seals or buffalo or elk in our country for global trading in their hides or fur. We should do our part to close off our markets to this kind of running massacre.