A bill aiming to ban the sale of kangaroo parts has been proposed by a northern US state, despite Australian researchers previously labelling the move “an own goal”.
- The Oregon bill would make it a crime to buy, receive, sell, or commercially exchange any product using kangaroo parts
- Australian researchers have warned in the past bans could hurt kangaroos more
- Australia killed 1.3 million kangaroos and wallabies for commercial harvest in 2021
The Oregon bill would take aim at sports apparel manufacturers using kangaroo leather to make their products.
Soccer cleats are one of the only products made from kangaroo leather that are routinely sold in Oregon, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The measure would impact Nike, which is based in Oregon and is the state’s largest employer.
“It’s unconscionable that millions of native wild animals in Australia have been killed for the sake of high-end soccer cleats worn by a subset of elite soccer players,” Democratic Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski, who introduced the bill, said in a news release issued by animal rights groups.
“I understand this legislation may have financial impact on some Oregon shoe manufacturers, but in the balance, Oregon should be standing on the humane side of this issue.
“There are other materials that can be used in making these high-end cleats.”
A similar law was proposed by the United States Congress in 2021, called the “Kangaroo Protection Act”, which would have banned the sale and import of kangaroo products.
It was not approved.
Australian researchers at the time called the bill “one of the most comprehensive own goals in the history of improving kangaroo welfare”.
Australian National University honorary professor George Wilson and University of Adelaide Associate Lecturer John Read said in their 2021 report that weakening the kangaroo industry would “result in more kangaroo suffering, not less”.
“Our research shows the kangaroo industry leads to better kangaroo welfare, more stable populations and improved conservation outcomes,” they wrote.
“If the bill succeeds, it would further suppress global demand for kangaroo products, and allow unregulated, uncontrolled and un-monitored killing by amateur hunters to flourish.”
Oregon’s bill would make it a crime to buy, receive, sell, or commercially exchange “any product containing a part of a dead kangaroo.”
The Center for a Humane Economy, Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation has welcomed the move.
“It’s time for these shoe manufacturers to evolve their business model to eliminate extreme animal cruelty in their product offerings,” said Rene Tatro, a board member of the Center for a Humane Economy.
Australia’s kangaroo industry
Kangaroo populations can rapidly increase in density across large areas of Australia, according to the RSPCA.
Four species — the red, eastern grey and western grey kangaroos and the common wallaroo — are approved for commercial harvest and export, and none are a threatened species.
“[Research] shows that under some conditions kangaroos can eat down the ground layer vegetation, removing important habitat for other species,” the ACT’s Environment Department wrote in its 2022 cull report.
“Without appropriate grass structure (average grass heights between 5-15cm), grassy habitats may no longer provide food and shelter for small animals such as reptiles, insects, small mammals and ground feeding birds.
“A loss of ground cover can also cause significant soil loss from wind, heavy rain and erosion – risking eventual ecosystem collapse.”
In more rural areas, kangaroos often compete with livestock for pasture and water, and can damage fences.
A total of 1,344,369 animals were killed across Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria for commercial harvest in 2021.
Each state calculates its harvest quota based on annual population estimates, setting the quota lower when the population dips.
Earlier this month, South Australia announced it would approve a rise in the number of kangaroos to be culled to 200,000 following a rise in population.
The Victorian government also increased their harvest quota to 166,750 in 2023, which the state government said was in line with a “significant increase” in population.
The announcements have sparked some backlash from wildlife groups, who said the quotas were based on population surveys before significant flooding.
The RSPCA has also called for “continuing research” and review into whether kangaroos and wallabies should continue to be killed, citing the “large number of kangaroos shot inhumanely each year”.
Multiple US states look at banning kangaroo products
Nike didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the company told ESPN last month it used kangaroo leather in a “small portion” of its soccer shoes.
It added it “works with leather suppliers that source animal skins from processors that use sound animal husbandry and humane treatment, whether farmed, domesticated, or wild managed.”
Politicians in Connecticut have introduced a similar bill this session.
The ban on “k-leather” would not be without precedent: California enacted a ban on kangaroo-based products in the 1970s.
The US listed several types of kangaroo as “endangered” from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s, but the animal is considered to have “recovered.”