Kangaroos jump for joy Down Under
WASHINGTON D.C.; BOSTON, Massachusetts––“The athletic wear giant New Balance informed the Center for a Humane Economy yesterday that it has altered its sourcing policies and that the company will phase out its use of kangaroo skins and halt sales of kangaroo-based shoes by next December,” emailed Center for a Humane Economy founder Wayne Pacelle to ANIMALS 24-7 on September 28, 2023.
New Balance, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, in business since 1906, has yet to confirm the announcement, but may not, since corporate policy for several years appears to have been to downplay use of kangaroo leather.
No mention of kangaroos in New Balance media releases since 2015
Although online advertisements for New Balance kangaroo leather shoes are easily found, ANIMALS 24-7 discovered through an electronic search of the New Balance media release archives that the company last used the word “kangaroo” in a media release in 2015.
In view that New Balance issues more than half a dozen media releases per month, mostly promoting new product variations, the absence of the word “kangaroo” suggests that the New Balance headquarters has long been aware of consumer concern over kangaroo leather use, and has been waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of dropping sales.
“The announcement comes six months after Nike announced a similar policy,” Pacelle said, “though Nike will halt sourcing and sales of kangaroo skins by the end of this year.
4-1 record against the biggest names
“Since the Center for a Humane Economy began its Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign more than three years ago,” Pacelle recounted, “four of the five biggest global athletic shoe brands have announced policies to stop sourcing kangaroo skins for athletic shoes: New Balance and Nike, based in the United States; Puma, headquartered in Germany; and Diadora, located in Italy.”
“Adidas, also based in Germany, is the major outlier among the five big brands,” Pacelle specified.
“There are several other shoe companies still using kangaroo skins , including Mizuno, based in Japan,” Pacelle acknowledged.
“Kangaroos Are Not Shoes”
“There is no question,” Pacelle assessed, “that these decisions will diminish the financing of the commercial massacres of kangaroos in their native habitats in Australia.”
Commercially motivated kangaroo culls are a longtime target of protest by animal advocates and environmentalists within Australia, for instance Frankie Seymour, founder of the Animal Protectors Alliance in 2014 and an Animal Justice Party political candidate in 2016 and 2022.
Animals Australia has campaigned against kangaroo culling for more than 30 years.
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.
More than a million roos per year
“Each year,” recited Pacelle, “more than a million wild kangaroos are cruelly gunned down in their native habitat. In addition, perhaps more than 300,000 joeys are orphaned and die after their mothers are slain in night-time shoots. Killing guidelines are deficient and impossible to enforce in the Outback and in the dead of night, when the mass shootings occur.
“The industry’s commercial code instructs the hunter to then kill the joey by blunt force trauma to the head, which is often accomplished by slamming the joey against the side of a car or another hard surface,” Pacelle said.
ANIMALS 24-7 has many grislier accounts on file from Australian first-hand witnesses.
Paired with Animal Wellness Action, an advocacy organization that Pacelle also heads, the Center for a Humane Economy is pursuing legislative pressure to stop the kangaroo massacres, as well as appealing to conscientious consumers.
“U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick,” a Republican from Pennsylvania, “and Jan Schakowsky,” a Democrat from Illinois, “two months ago introduced the Kangaroo Protection Act, H.R. 4995, to ban the sale of kangaroo body parts in the United States,” Pacelle recounted.
Emma Hurst, a member of the New South Wales state parliament representing the Animal Justice Party, and Georgie Purcell, a member of the Victoria state parliament, also representing the Animal Justice Party, “lobbied U.S. lawmakers this week urging support for the Kangaroo Protection Act,” Pacelle said.
Similar legislation has been introduced in Arizona, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont, Pacelle said, and has long been in effect in California, where the Center for a Humane Economy is pursuing litigation seeking to get the state law enforced.
Only 5% of World Cup goals scored with kangaroo leather
Kangaroo leather is most prominently used to make soccer shoes, but has already fallen out of favor among top players.
“Out of 172 goals scored in last year’s World Cup, 164 came from players wearing synthetic shoes or conventional leather, though synthetics dominated,” Pacelle noted.
“As recently as April 2021,” reported Dan Hajducky of ESPN, after Nike and Puma dropped the use of kangaroo leather, “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 added, “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, named for the wife of former British soccer star David Beckham.
Nike out-runs the field
Behind the scenes, Nike, the first major athletic shoe maker to drop kangaroo leather, has taken a commanding lead in global market share, at 18%, seven percentage points more than runner-up Jordan and twice the market share of Adidas.
New Balance is in eighth place at 4%, supported by more than 200 company stories in 120 nations.
Nike also leads in U.S. market share, at 17%, just ahead of Jordan at 16%. Adidas ranks fifth in the U.S. at 6%, New Balance is at 5%, and Puma, a non-factor internationally, in the U.S. is at 4%.
New Balance hopes to score in U.K.
New Balance appears to see maximum growth opportunity in the United Kingdom.
Nike also leads with 18% of United Kingdom market share, where Adidas has 12% and New Balance has 6%, in a tight race with half a dozen runner-up brands.
Seeking to boost United Kingdom brand recognition, New Balance on September 28, 2023 opened a London store with what the company called “an edited selection of apparel and footwear to try to appeal to elite athletes and fashion influencers alike.”
Protests over the use of kangaroo leather could kick a dent in that image in a hurry.
But “a few leather chairs in the center of the shop,” noticed by early visitors, indicate that new sensitivity toward kangaroos by the New Balance company does not extend to all animals.
A similar upscale New Balance boutique is expected to open soon near the corporate headquarters in Boston.