More than 100 retailers and online stores are selling soccer shoes made with kangaroo skins (also known as “k-leather”) in violation of California law, a months-long investigation conducted by nonprofit the Center for a Humane Economy (CHE) reveals. California Penal Code § 653o went into effect in 2016, banning the sale and import of athletic shoes made with kangaroo leather with penalties of up to $5,000 and six months in jail for each violation. CHE Investigators found that two thirds of the 117 physical soccer speciality stores, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, in California are illegally selling k-leather cleats and 93 percent of the 76 dominant online retailers of such sporting goods, including eBay, are in violation of California law. Shoe companies such as Nike, Diadora, Lotto, New Balance, Pantofola d’Oro, Puma, and Umbro are also shipping k-leather soccer shoes to California. CHE investigators noted that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other law enforcement agencies have not taken action to stop the sale of these products.

While Nike suspended sales of shoes made with kangaroo leather after it was informed of the investigation, it resumed its sales of the shoes this month. Nike was recently caught making an illegal sale by Robert Ferber—a former Los Angeles City prosecutor in charge of animal cruelty crimes for more than a decade—who placed an order for two styles of shoes made with kangaroo leather. “I’ve ordered pairs of Tiempo Legend 8 Elite to see if Nike was following the law. Except for a brief period this spring, the shoes I ordered through Nike.com appeared promptly and illegally on my doorstep,” Ferber said. “I’d expect more controls, and more serious-minded compliance from one of the biggest corporations in the world and one that touts its commitment to sustainability and ethics.” Other investigators also received orders in California from other retailers for shoes made from kangaroo skin.

A group of Olympic athletes—including cycling silver medalist Dotsie Bauch, soccer gold medalist Heather Mitts, and track-and-field gold medalist David Verberg—sent a letter to Nike demanding that the company end its use of kangaroo skins. “We are athletes who’ve been fortunate to compete at the highest levels in our sports. We are also deeply concerned about the environment and the well-being of animals,” the letter states. “We don’t treat sports as a cordoned-off enterprise set apart from the rest of the world and its swirl of social concerns. That means we care about the things we wear, the supply chain that allows them to be fabricated, and the precious world that we all inhabit with animals. Killing wild animals in their native environments to make shoes must end. It is an archaic, inhumane, and unnecessary practice.”

Approximately two million wild kangaroos are killed in Australia for their skins every year. CHE is collaborating with a number of other groups on a global campaign to encourage all athletic shoemakers to cease using kangaroo parts. “Scores of kangaroos and their baby joeys rescued this year from Australia’s wildfires are now being released back into their native habitat only to risk being shot and killed for soccer shoes,” Cienwen Hickey, Australian wildlife advocate for CHE, said. “This is the world’s quietest massacre of wildlife, and I am deeply distressed that Nike and other major companies are defying the law and contributing to this bloodletting and butchery in the Outback.” 

CHE has created a “no-buy” list of all companies that currently use kangaroo leather which can be found here.

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