Every year, kangaroos die in vast numbers because of Nike. That’s the inescapable conclusion of an investigation by the Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) into the soccer cleat trade. And it’s the precise reason last year the Center announced its “Kangaroos Are Not Shoes” (KANS) campaign.
Nike still doesn’t appreciate why killing two million kangaroos a year in Australia — commercial exploitation of wildlife that is widely discredited in contemporary wildlife management circles — is a moral and reputational problem. It’s with that moral dullness of thought that Nike recently released an updated version of its signature kangaroo leather soccer shoe: the Tiempo Legend, its ninth version of this shoe for soccer elites and other athletes.
This is Nike’s first refresh on the Tiempo Legend since we launched KANS. Our campaign’s focus on Nike’s role in the kangaroo skin trade was its opportunity to pivot away from this form of animal exploitation. It could show stakeholders that the company heeded the wishes of nearly 75,000 petition signatures from around the globe; the protest letters of Olympic medal-winning athletes; billboards blaring the KANS message near the Nike campus; the 60-second film tweeted out to a million people tracing a Tiempo Legend back to its source; and the introduction of the Kangaroo Protection Act, H.R. 917, in Congress to halt the trade once and for all in the United States.
Nike Digs in on Cruelty, Even as Consumer Interest in Wildlife-Based Shoes Wanes
Nike’s doubling down on its signature shoe signs, at least for the short term, a death warrant for kangaroos. And not just the adults, but the joeys found in the pouch or at the foot of slain mothers. The total kill of two million includes some 400,000 joeys who are considered “collateral damage” by the industry.
Nike offers four models of soccer shoes that use kangaroo skin, and dozens of models that are synthetic. So, we know it’s hardly a big lift to shed the animal skins. In fact, when it comes to performance, the kangaroo shoes are in the rearguard. Only a single goal was scored by a kangaroo skin soccer shoe (or football boot to the rest of the world) in the recent European Championships. Nike’s synthetic boots scored 72. Kangaroo boots from Adidas and Puma fared equally poorly.
Working with the BootWizard in Europe — the man with an encyclopedic knowledge of soccer shoes who refuses to review leather models on his popular YouTube channel — the Center has produced the definitive list of soccer shoes made from kangaroo. There are some 65 models from nine manufacturers — amounting to a “Do Not Buy” list for conscious consumers.
Nike’s Hollow Defenses
Nike asserts it only uses kangaroos from “actively managed populations with government agency oversight.” Yet Nike would do well to watch the Australian Broadcasting Company’s recent “7:30 Report,” a hard-hitting investigative segment revealing that “agency oversight” is as real as Charlie Brown Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float: a big, towering overblown prop full of hot air.
A New South Wales Parliamentary Inquiry into the killing of kangaroos — the first of its kind in 50 years, and from the most populous of Australia’s eight states — determined that the government counting models to justify kangaroo “culling quotas” were flawed and lacked transparency.
Over two and a half days of testimony from opponents and proponents of kangaroo killing, representatives from the government fumbled for answers, and lawmakers instructed them to return only when better prepared. The government’s s seal of approval for the industry, behind which Nike hides, suffered a gut shot. And the biggest fig leaf of all, that the “National Code of Practice for the for the Humane Killing of Kangaroos,” was yanked away. The government trots out this code as a statement of “best practices” in the field. Undisputed testimony reported that the Code is not and never has been enforced “at the point of kill.” It’s a PR hoax, and the inquiry exposed that dirty little secret.
The final report of the Inquiry also recommended “extensive and genuine consultation” with Aboriginal communities, noting the spiritual importance of kangaroos and the harm caused by the destruction of a sacred totem animal.
Shedding Kangaroo Skins Couldn’t Be Easier
California already bans the sale of kangaroo parts, and our investigation of soccer retailers illegally selling kangaroo-based shoes is cracking down on the trade. We’ve gone from 65 percent of retailers not complying with the law to now about 30 percent not complying. We’ll be satisfied when that number is zero, and we are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to make that happen.
But our footprint is broader than our biggest U.S. state. We are committed to extending that policy to the nation, and that’s why we are pushing for the federal Kangaroo Protection Act.
We also have our eyes on national bans throughout the world. The Center has been instrumental in the formation of the International Kangaroo Protection Alliance (IKPA), some two dozen organizations and experts working to advance of goal of shutting down any commerce in kangaroo parts. One of its founding partners, the Animal Justice Party in Australia (it was AJP Member of Parliament Mark Pearson who launched the NSW Inquiry), is preparing to put forth legislation to ban the exports of kangaroo products in that leading Australian state. Another IKPA member, Sanne Kuijpers of World Animal Protection, just succeeded in persuading a leading Netherlands merchandise website, bol.com to stop selling kangaroo products. As a consequence, the Kangaroo-based Tiempo Legend 9 cannot be purchased by the 11 million customers who use that site as a portal for purchases.
Diadora, whose soccer sportswear is one of the top four best-sellers in the U.S. and one of the largest players in the world, stopped using kangaroo skin in its boots last year. Adidas recently announced a mushroom leather sports shoe and is joining with Stella McCartney for a vegan soccer shoe. While the company must also change its way, given that it has over a dozen kangaroo skin models, we acknowledge putting one foot in front of the other and making forward progress.
Making the transition to animal-free shoes isn’t hard for Nike. The company is dodging, deflecting, and denying. It already has dozens of models of soccer cleats made from non-animal sources. In an age of innovation, an era of emerging animal consciousness, and 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 brands risks associating itself with the largest commercial slaughter of native wildlife in the world.
Nike’s corporate conduct is disgraceful. A Red Card for the Fortune 500 company. Consumers beware. And, kangaroos, run for your lives.
We have the chance to ban the sale of kangaroo products across America! TAKE ACTION by using our secure form to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to support the Kangaroo Protection Act, H.R. 917.
Holding corporations accountable on animal welfare is what the Center for a Humane Economy does. Please consider donating $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can to the Center for a Humane Economy so that we can continue that life-saving and strategic work.