In December, Argentina bested France in a dramatic finale to the 2022 World Cup, with the South American soccer power prevailing in a shootout. One backstory of the soccer tournament, especially for animal advocates, is that the world’s best players voted with their feet and widely shunned the use of soccer cleats (aka football boots) made from the skins of kangaroos.
Animal Wellness Action counted up the goals scored at the World Cup and determined the shoe models the players used. There were 172 goals scored in last year’s World Cup, with 164 coming from players wearing synthetic shoes or conventional leather (though synthetics dominated).
This dominance of synthetic-based shoes on the biggest stage of soccer competition makes Nike and Adidas look callous and stubborn given that the companies continue to source skins from wild-killed kangaroos.
In its statements on corporate social responsibility, Nike says that if there “is no planet, there is no sport” and pledging to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has made impressive strides in using recyclable and reusable products, “such as Flyleather, a material made with at least 50% recycled leather scraps.”
We are glad to hear about the company’s attention to these issues.
But Nike doesn’t have a solid record in fulfilling pledges. It promised to eliminate kangaroo skins in its supply chain in 2012. But wildlife advocates around the world are still waiting, now more than a decade later.
The company’s social responsibility commitments seem more like platitudes rather than granular commitments. And how can it support its claim to be a good corporate citizen when the company is purchasing skins from commercial shooters who kill on average 2 million kangaroos a year, including as many as 500,000-800,000 joeys who are collateral damage in the night-time hunts?
Sure, do indeed tell us about climate change and recycling. But while you’re doing so, stop killing the iconic wildlife who live in the forests, breathe the air in the atmosphere, and drink from the streams.
Oregon Lawmaker Says Kangaroo Killing Must Stop
This week, the Center (Animal Wellness Action) and its affiliates applauded State Senator Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, for introducing SB 764 in Oregon to forbid the sale of shoes made from kangaroos in Oregon.
Nike and other footwear manufacturers have over decades pioneered the development of light, non-animal fabrics that now dominate their athletic shoe offerings. Kangaroo skins are not used at all for the company’s models designed for running, tennis, golf, football, or other sports. Even in the soccer cleat category, the best-selling cleats are not made from kangaroos..
“It’s unconscionable to me that millions of native wild animals in Australia are being killed for the sake of high-end soccer cleats worn by a tiny subset of professional soccer players,” said Prozanski, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If the non-kangaroo-based shoes are good enough for Argentina’s Lionel Messi, France’s Kylian Mbappe, and the other top players in the world, they should be good enough for high-school soccer players and weekend warriors who play the sport.
Oregon’s SB 764 is designed to have the same effect as California’s law banning any sale of kangaroo products. California represents as much as 20 percent of the U.S. soccer market, and Nike is not allowed to sell any of its kangaroo-based shoes in that vast sales arena.
So far this year, lawmakers in Connecticut and New Jersey have introduced similar legislation to stop the trade in kangaroo parts, with other states soon to follow. In the last Congress (just concluded), U.S. Representatives Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced national legislation to ban any trade in kangaroo parts in the U.S., and reintroduction of that national legislation in the House and Senate is expected soon.
Elegance on the Field, Massacre on the Forests and Grasslands
Soccer attracts extraordinary athletes, and fans love it for the speed and strength and the handling and kicking skills of the players, and also the collective rhythms of the game. The hidden realities of mass slaughter in the supply chain of the sport are its dirty little secret.
The only contemporary spectacle that compares in gruesomeness with the kangaroo slaughter is Canada’s massacre of baby harp and hooded seals. There, men of European descent, as in Australia, do the shooting and the bludgeoning of native wildlife, almost entirely for export of their parts.
This seal “hunt” is so inhumane and economically insignificant that many nations throughout the world now ban the trade. The U.S. has the longest-standing ban on seal-skin imports, established under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Trade restrictions have been maintained despite the ongoing objections of federal and provincial governments in Canada. In this century, the European Union banned the trade, as did Mexico, Russia, and other nations.
With market closures, the annual kill dropped from 300,000 seals to perhaps 20,000 today. The hunt persists at all because Canada’s government subsidizes it, trying to pry open foreign markets and even buying up pelts as a sort of life-support action.
After kangaroo shooters kill the adults, they are urged, under the government’s voluntary and unenforceable “National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes,” to bludgeon any joeys found in the pouch or at the foot of their slain mothers. The toll often exceeds half a million a year.
And when it comes to Australia’s rationalizations for the hunts — that kangaroos are abundant and compete with cattle and sheep on the landscape — let’s remember the modern kangaroo dates back a million or more years. They survived the Pleistocene epoch (the “ice age”) and the introduction of dogs thousands of years ago. They inhabited Australian landscapes long before we did and are exquisitely adapted to them. Their populations have always been limited by food availability and environmental conditions.
More Australians are seeing through the exaggerations and false framing of their agriculture ministers, the sheep and cattle barons, and the commercial shooters who profit from the enterprise. And so are more American political leaders. They rightly recognize a synchronized smear when they see it. The whole kangaroo-killing complex, quietly financed by the executives at Nike and Adidas, is on stilts and rocky ground.
Making the transition to animal-free shoes isn’t hard for Nike. It has dozens of models of soccer cleats made from non-animal sources, and those models sell well. In an era of emerging consciousness about animals and the planet, and at a time of heightened awareness that kangaroos in the wild face acute threats from forest and grassland fires to roadkill to attacks by ranchers, it’s astonishing that one of the best-known company brands in the world risks associating itself with this kind of commercial massacre.
Nike’s corporate conduct is disgraceful. A Red Card for the Fortune 500 company. Consumers beware.
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