Nike and Other Retailers Illegally Selling Kangaroo Skins in California, Finds Major Investigation

Athletic shoe companies drive the killing of 2 million kangaroos a year in Australia  

Here’s a revelation for consumers in the hunt for athletic footwear: commercial shooters massacre more than two million kangaroos a year for our kicks.

More precisely, for soccer shoes.

The practice of selling kangaroo-skin shoes is legal in 49 states.

But not in California.

Yesterday, the Center for a Humane Economy released a report that, in an exacting manner, documents scores of ongoing violations of California’s ban on selling body parts of kangaroos (CA Penal Code 653o).

I made our case in a Zoom teleconference with Olympic Silver Medalist Dotsie Bausch, executive director of Switch4Good, and Robert Ferber, AWA’s deputy director of legal affairs and a former Los Angeles prosecutor who led the city’s animal cruelty unit. The Center developed the first of its kind list identifying kangaroo skin soccer cleats, listing 72 models of shoes from 9 companies.

We told the media that these traffickers in illegal wildlife products are audaciously hiding in plain sight.

  • Two-thirds of the 117 California soccer specialty retailers selling soccer “cleats” are violating the ban.
  • Of the 76 dominant online retailers, some 93 percent are illegally allowing shipment into California.
  • Among the top nine shoe manufacturers, Diadora, Lotto, New Balance, Pantofola d’Oro, Puma, and Umbro were found to be shipping illegally to California addresses (only Muzuno and adidas followed the law). Nike, the biggest name in athletic footwear, apparently took steps to temporarily come into compliance after being notified of violations by the Center but then resumed illegal sales.
  • All nine manufacturers, including adidas, violate the statute by wholesaling soccer cleats to retailers in California.

It would be as if two-thirds of stores offering home goods — from the big names like Overstock and Walmart to the mom-and-pop stores in your neighborhood — were selling ivory carvings right out in the open, even though California bans that trade.

These athletic companies, including Fortune 500 companies such as Nike and adidas, are breaking the law. Brazenly. Knowingly.

California Law Enforcement Has Failed Kangaroos

For years, Australian trade groups that kill kangaroos worked to upend the law, even succeeding in convincing lawmakers to suspend it for nearly a decade. But the prohibition has been in effect since 2016 — an unambiguous, straight-ahead ban on the sale of any kangaroo parts, including skins.

But the Center’s report, done in cooperation with Animal Wellness Action, shows that state enforcement authorities have been idle as the trafficking persisted.

Collectively, there have been tens of thousands of violations in that four-year period.

Here are videos of one of our volunteers buying kangaroo skin soccer cleats just last week. And just this week, Bob Ferber received a pair of Nike Tiempo 8 Elite in the mail after ordering them through Nike.com.

State lawmakers decided collectively that they want California to divorce itself from the Australia’s business of mass killing of kangaroos. That makes sense, since the state was a pioneer in banning any trapping of any animal for fur, using wild animals in circuses, and banning the use of lead ammunition in sport hunting.

Indeed, California is leading the way on animal protection in lawmaking. But it’s just one of the mob when it comes to lax enforcement of the law.

The Fires

If any state understands the threats that forest fires pose to people, property, and wildlife, it’s California. But not even Californians experienced fires as intense and destructive as those that torched Australia some months ago. The calamitous fires raged across the continent — which is about the size of the United States, but has less than 10 percent as many people as we do — and killed more than a billion wild animals, according to one Queensland-based scientists. Included in that unimaginable loss were uncounted kangaroos.

When I learned about what was going on, I grieved for Australia’s people and animals. The flames consumed so many creatures, and ate up so much of their habitat, resulting in a desperate search for food and water.

Natural disasters, magnified by the effects of climate changes, can do much lasting damage. Leaving human communities and ecological communities disassembled.

I thought, after seeing the continent razed, that these iconic animals cannot withstand the continuing assault by shooters and the other effects of our species, including the conflagrations we’ve sparked.

We have to limit our footprint.

And one big step for us is to choose the right footwear. By doing so, we can spare the kangaroos.

Shooters and Shoe Sellers Are a Pair

The commercial shooters kill two million wild kangaroos annually to supply skins to Nike, adidas, Mizuno, Pantofola d’Oro, New Balance, Puma, Umbro, Lotto, Under Armour, and Diadora (Diadora promised to stop by the end of this year, but our investigation found the company illegally selling kangaroo-based shoes in the state).

There are no “farmed” kangaroos. Shooters have to go out in the Outback at night, use spotlights, sometimes shooting from trucks. When the shooters kill the females, they doom hundreds of thousands of baby kangaroos (joeys). The dependent young either die of starvation, bludgeoning, or decapitation.

In fact, it’s the largest land-based commercial wildlife slaughter in the planet. Nearly 10 times larger than Canada’s seal hunts at the zenith of the slaughter on the ice floes.

And get this. Even during Australia’s wildfires this year 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.

Shedding the Skins

The Center for a Humane Economy, Animal Wellness Action, SPCA International and others are calling on the major athletic shoe companies to drop kangaroos from their supply chain.

As a matter of business, it’s an easy lift. The kangaroo soccer shoes are a niche product. Most of the companies’ shoes are made from plant-based and synthetic weave, mesh and even fake kangaroo skin materials. In fact, no other sports shoe category (like running, tennis or  basketball) but soccer contains kangaroo skin models.

We don’t treat sports as a cordoned-off enterprise set apart from the rest of world and its swirl of social concerns,” said Bausch, on behalf of herself, soccer gold medalist Heather Mitts, track-and-field gold medalist David Verburg, and two other elite athletes in a letter to Nike CEO John Donahoe. “That means we care about the things we wear, the supply chain that allows them to be fabricated, and the precious world that we all inhabit with animals.”

If these elite athletes can get by without kangaroo skins on their feet, so can everybody else.  In fact, every one of these companies already sells soccer cleats made from fabrics not stripped from the backs of wildlife.

We’re not making hats from herons and egrets, we don’t decorate our living rooms with ivory trinkets, and we shouldn’t wear athletic shoes made from the skins of kangaroos.

Please sign our petition to save kangaroos from being made into soccer shoes!