In the United States, animal welfare advocates have filed a civil suit against a California-based sportswear and equipment retailer which they say was selling kangaroo leather football boots, despite a ban 50 years on products in this state.
The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action group say in a lawsuit filed in a California court that US Soccer Wearhouse and other sports retailers in the state “blatantly flouted the law” by selling “base cleats.” kangaroo” in their stores, including major brands. The lawsuit does not allege any wrongdoing on the part of the manufacturers.
Kangaroo products have been banned in California since 1971, with violations punishable by fines of up to US$5,000 and up to six months in jail.
In 2007, the California Supreme Court upheld the ban in an unrelated case. regarding the sale of Adidas football boots kangaroo leather, a ban that has been extended to all kangaroo leather footwear.
However, the government has previously acknowledged that it has struggled to enforce the law.
Adidas’ lawsuit was brought by animal rights groups. The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action, two Washington DC-based animal rights organizations, hope their action against Soccer Wearhouse will set a similar precedent.
In court documents obtained by Guardian Australia, the organizations claim to have visited several Soccer Wearhouse sites and found they were selling kangaroo leather cleats. In one instance, they claim to have purchased a pair of black Puma King Platinum 21 cleats.
They allege that they reported their findings to state regulators for several months before filing a lawsuit, claiming that: “neither the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is the agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting wildlife trafficking, nor have any state or county prosecutors brought a single enforcement action for violations of the Kangaroo Part of Section 653o”.
Sports brands often choose to use kangaroo leather because of its high strength-to-weight ratio, but campaigners say the commercial harvesting of marsupials in Australia is inhumane and unnecessary as there are synthetic alternatives available.
This sentiment has also been echoed in Europe, where pressure is mounting to ban the import of kangaroo products due to animal welfare concerns. Europe is currently the world’s largest market for kangaroo products.
Some Australian conservationists have argued that banning the trade would harm kangaroo welfare by allowing overpopulation, an argument rejected by a recent parliamentary inquiry in New South Wales.
The NSW Kangaroo Health and Welfare Inquiry found major issues with monitoring and auditing the slaughter and harvesting system, but only two of its 23 recommendations have been fully adopted.
Conservationists have called for an improvement to Australia’s national kangaroo strategy.
Soccer Wearhouse has yet to file a response. At the time of publication, Soccer Wearhouse had not responded to multiple attempts by Guardian Australia to contact them for comment.
US-based Soccer Wearhouse has no affiliation with an Australian company of the same name, Soccer Warehouse.