Did you know that many soccer shoes are made from kangaroo leather? For example, the Puma King, worn by soccer gods such as Diego Maradona, Eusébio, Lothar Matthäus and Pelé, has been made from kangaroo leather for years. What once seemed exotic and represented quality has now acquired an unpleasant aftertaste: For many years, environmentalists and animal rights activists in Australia have been campaigning for an end to the commercial, largely uncontrolled killing of wild animals.
The issue: Kangaroos are not officially threatened with extinction and are in fact even overpopulated. However, as the animals are not bred but instead shot in the wild, no one knows exactly how many animals actually die. Animal activists give out a warning now, saying that the population in certain areas is starting to decline. On top of it, the slaughtering is cruel and not controlled. Millions of animals are killed every year for commercial purposes, to be processed into meat, animal feed, leather accessories or said soccer boots.
Vegan alternatives instead of animal suffering
The accusations have been known for a long time and various fashion brands have already reacted to them a few years back, for example Versace, Prada or Diagora, who officially said goodbye to kangaroo leather in 2020.
Now Nike and Puma followed suit. Just recently, Puma announced that the legendary Puma King soccer shoe will be manufactured from a vegan material in the future, the so-called K-Better, which contains 20 percent recycled material. K-Better is not only a vegan alternative, according to Puma it is better than its animal predecessor. "K-Better has proven in tests that it outperforms the previous King K leather in terms of grip, comfort and durability. Puma is so convinced of K-Better's performance characteristics that the company will completely stop producing soccer shoes with kangaroo leather this year," Puma wrote in a press release.
Additionally, Nike wants to bring out an update of its Tiempo soccer shoe series soon, as published by the US trade journal Footwear News, quoting a Nike representative. A synthetic material has been found too and, starting this year, kangaroo leather will no longer be processed.
According to press reports, Adidas announced its plan to drastically reduce the use of kangaroo leather already in 2012, although it doesn’t want to relinquish it completely.
The campaigns of the animal rights activists were repeatedly accompanied by legal initiatives aimed at banning the import or sale of kangaroo products. Just a few weeks ago, the EU had to decide whether kangaroo meat could continue to be imported - and voted in favour. The Netherlands are currently considering a ban.
Resistance is also rising in the USA. In January 2023, a bill was introduced in the US state of Oregon, where Nike’s headquarter is situated, pushing to ban the sale of kangaroo parts. It would not be the first state to take this route: The state of California has already banned kangaroo leather in 2007.
The Australian kangaroo industry delivers the counter argument that these animals live in the wild, unlike cattle and other farmed animals whose meat and leather are traded. Kangaroos emit less methane, require less water, cause less damage to the pastureland and no energy is needed to breed them. Kangaroo leather is therefore more environmentally friendly than conventional leather and has a lower carbon footprint.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Cenia Zitter.