Animal Welfare Advocates File Lawsuit to Stop Athletic Shoe Sellers in California from Engaging in Illegal Trade in Kangaroo Parts
Groups Demand Retailer Soccer Wearhouse Comply with the Law
Riverside, Calif. — Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy filed a lawsuit today against Soccer Wearhouse, a California-based sportwear and equipment retailer that maintains outlets in Corona, Temecula and Anaheim, alleging that the company is illegally selling kangaroo-sourced soccer cleats to consumers.
The state’s Penal Code Section 653o prohibits the sale of the body parts of a number of animals, including kangaroo. Despite this plain-language statewide prohibition, a number of retailers, including Soccer Wearhouse, continue to offer soccer cleats in their stores and online made from the skins of kangaroos from companies such as Puma, Nike, and Adidas.
“For years now Soccer Wearhouse and many other California retailers have been openly flouting the law, putting kangaroo-based cleats on open display in their shops and even bragging that they know it is unlawful while greedily ringing up sales,” said Kate Schultz, senior attorney for the Center for a Humane Economy.
“We’ve provided unmistakable evidence of illegal sales of kangaroo-based products to law enforcement officials, but thus far, there’s been little or no action to enforce our anti-wildlife trafficking laws,” she said. “We’re taking the alleged violators to court ourselves.”
The kangaroo industry in Australia engages in the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wild animals in the world. Each year, around two million wild kangaroos are cruelly gunned down in their native habitat to feed the lucrative kangaroo parts industry. Kangaroo-based cleats make up an estimated 70 percent of that demand.
As horrific as the shooting of millions of adult kangaroos is, the abuse visited on hundreds of thousands of baby kangaroos – joeys – each year is even more attention-getting. These defenseless young animals are yanked from the pouches and killed by blunt force trauma to the head, after their mothers have been shot, often with a violent swing against the side of a car or other solid surface. Australia’s killing code stipulates that it is okay for the babies to linger in pain for a full three minutes before death ends their suffering.
“Synthetic soccer cleats are readily available and easily rival or outperform those made from the skins of kangaroos,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder and president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.
“In fact, 10 years ago Nike promised to do away with its kangaroo-sourced products, but it has failed to honor that explicit pledge,” he said. “A decade later, after the fires that left billions of Australian animals dead two years ago, there is no need for these companies to continue to promote the killing of these iconic wild animals in their native habitats.”
The Center and Animal Wellness Action have invested tremendous resources and effort into ending the trade in kangaroo body parts, including:
- Maintaining an ongoing investigation into the illegal sales of k-leather cleats in California
- Producing investigative reports that document our extensive findings
- Working both domestically and internationally to introduce legal prohibitions on the sale of kangaroo-sourced products in commerce
- Mounting a public pressure campaign against the big soccer-cleat manufacturers.
Over the past several months, the organizations and their grassroots allies have launched protests outside several Nike flagship stores across the country, including in New York, Portland and Los Angeles, as well as overseas in Australia.
“California is one of the most lucrative markets in the United States for the soccer industry with well over 300,000 kids enrolled in youth leagues,” said Natasha Dolezal, Deputy Director of Campaigns for the Center.
“We intend to shut down the illegal sales of these products throughout the state and continue to fight to ensure that the days of kangaroo leather cleats are ended,” she said. “This case is just the first in several we intend to bring if retailers in the state don’t heed our warning and continue to break the law.”
The Center and Animal Wellness Action are represented in the case by in-house counsel and Jessica Blome of Greenfire Law, PC, in Berkeley, Calif.
The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.
Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.