Pumas do not hunt kangaroos anyhow
BEAVERTON, Oregon––Pumas, native to almost all of the Americas, do not hunt kangaroos, native only to Australia.
Neither will kangaroos be hunted any longer to supply the German sportswear manufacturer Puma with their hides, the Puma company has announced.
Nor will kangaroo hides be impaled on Nike spikes, the Nike company responded to the Puma announcement.
Kangaroo leather soccer shoes barely outlive popularizer Pelé
The parallel Puma and Nike declarations may be the beginning of the end for the extensive use of kangaroo leather in athletic shoes, popularized in 1970 by the Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé, 1940-2022.
“K-leather” loses match to K-Better
Amy Buxton of Plant Based News broke the first half of the story, an apparently signal victory for both animal advocacy and vegan industry, on March 10, 2023.
Instead, Buxton wrote, Puma is “opting instead for a new vegan leather substitute called K-Better,” a pun on the term “k-leather” commonly used to describe kangaroo leather products.
“Puma debuted a fully vegan football boot in 2022, dubbed the King Platinum 21 Vegan,” Buxton detailed. “However, other shoes in the King range continued to utilize kangaroo hides for their uppers.”
“Out-performs traditional kangaroo hide”
“Puma claims to be so impressed by the performance of its vegan leather,” Buxton said, “that it is discontinuing kangaroo leather entirely by the end of 2023. Extensive testing proved that K-Better out-performs traditional kangaroo hide for football boot construction across the board, ranking higher for durability, touch, and comfort.
“Made using a minimum of 20% recycled materials,” Buxton continued, “K-Better consists mostly of a nylon microfiber blend. It is used in conjunction with a lightweight plastic sole.”
Puma offers separate K-Better soccer shoe lines made for men, and made for women.
Nike jumps on kangaroo leather-free trend
Buxton’s article appeared on a Friday.
Dan Hajducky of ESPN broke the rest of the story on the following Monday, March 13, 2023.
Nike, of Beaverton, Oregon, a Portland suburb, “has announced it will ‘stop making any product with kangaroo leather’ by the end of 2023, the sportswear giant said in a statement sent to ESPN,” Hajducky wrote.
“Nike’s latest offering of its famed Tiempo soccer shoe franchise,” Hajducky continued, “will ‘debut with a new Nike-only proprietary synthetic upper, [with] a new material that is a better performance solution and replaces the use of kangaroo leather.’”
“This comes,” Hajducky explained, “after the introduction of a bill in mid-January in Oregon — where Nike is headquartered — that would ban the sale of ‘any part of a dead kangaroo or any product containing a part of a dead kangaroo.’ The punishment would include up to a year in prison, a $6,250 fine, or both.
“There is also a bipartisan bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives,” Hajducky noted, “the Kangaroo Protection Act of 2021 [H.R. 917], that would prohibit and criminalize the import, transport, and sale of all kangaroo products in the United States for commercial purposes.”
California has had similar legislation on the books since 1971, but the California law has been only lightly enforced.
Kangaroo leather shoes stink, say fashionistas
Kangaroo leather soccer shoe models made by Puma, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Mizuno, among other companies, currently account for about 12% of the soccer shoes sold in the U.S., chiefly at the upper end of the price range..
“As recently as April 2021,” reported Hajducky, “the global commercial kangaroo product industry was worth roughly $200 million annually to Australia; the U.S. was its second-largest global market at $80 million.
“Fashion, also once a massive proprietor of k-leather,” Hajducky observed, “has already seen a mass exodus.”
Fashion brands jettisoning kangaroo leather since 2019 include Versace, Prada, Chanel, H&M, Diane von Furstenberg, Salvatore Ferragamo, Paul Smith, and Victoria Beckham, wife of former British soccer star David Beckham.
Spalding introduced kangaroo leather to baseball
The Australian government has promoted kangaroo culling on a commercial scale since 1999. The usual toll is from 1.5 million to two million kangaroos.
About 70% of the culled kangaroo hides have gone toward making high-end soccer cleats, with much smaller numbers used to make high-end baseball cleats and running shoes.
Hall of Fame major league pitcher Al Spalding, founder of the Spalding sporting goods empire, never wore kangaroo leather baseball cleats himself, his own career having ended in 1878. But Spalding introduced kangaroo leather cleats to major league baseball at some point between his own retirement and 1890, by which time they sold for $7.00 a pair.
As this was equivalent to $230 in 2023 dollars, the baseball market for kangaroo leather cleats remained small, and has never gained major market share, though Mizuno, Rawlings, and other brands continue to offer them.
Worldwide, however, only 65 million people play baseball and/or softball. More than 250 million play soccer.
Wayne Pacelle claims victory
Campaigning against the use of kangaroo leather in athletic shoes off and on since 1991, Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action founder Wayne Pacelle called the Nike and Puma decisions “a seismic event in wildlife protection. Tremors will be felt all over the world,” Pacelle predicted, “especially in Australia.”
The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action, formed in 2018, initiated a “Kangaroos Are Not Shoes” campaign in 2020, endorsed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a rare instance of rival U.S.-based animal advocacy organizations sharing a campaign slogan.
The “Kangaroos Are Not Shoes” campaign included erecting billboards near the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon in March 2021; organizing protests in both the U.S. and Australia; and funded the formation of the International Kangaroo Protection Alliance in April 2021.
“Now it’s up to Adidas”
“Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy have also assisted in the introduction of both federal and state legislation banning the import and sale of kangaroo products,” the organizations mentioned in a media release, citing bills pending in Arizona, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont.
“Multiple lawsuits have also been filed in California in the summer of 2022 and early 2023,” the media release continued, “alleging that soccer retailers are illegally selling cleats made of kangaroo leather in violation of state law.”
Added Center for a Humane Economy lawyer Natasha Dolezal, “Now it’s up to Adidas and the remaining soccer cleat makers to follow suit.”
The Puma and Nike decisions to quit making kangaroo leather soccer shoes came as a boot in the balls to the Australian kangaroo-culling industry.
Making the issue a political football, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry almost immediately announced what amounts to an international disinformation campaign, responding to decades of frequent video documentation of cruelty in kangaroo culling, especially in killing an estimated 500,000 joeys––baby kangaroos still in their mother’s pouches––after their mothers are shot.
Wrote Jesse Hyland for Daily Mail Australia, “A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry told News Corp,” the Rupert Murdoch family-owned global media chain, that ‘The government is tackling misconceptions that harvesting of kangaroos in Australia is inhumane, noting the importance of sustainable, humane management of kangaroos to prevent ecosystem damage and crop loss.’”
The fatal flaw in that argument is that the most ecologically destructive animals in Australia by almost any reckoning, humans excepted, are the 72 million sheep, not the 42 million kangaroos, whose numbers are divided among 48 species, nor the much decried feral cats, camels, brumbies [wild horses], rabbits, foxes, and cane toads, all of whom combined are also far outnumbered by sheep.