Animal welfare lawyers in the US have filed a civil lawsuit against a California-based sportswear and equipment store that they believe sells kangaroo leather football boots, despite a 50-year-old ban on the products in that state.
The Center for a Humane Economy and the Animal Wellness Action group claim in lawsuits filed in a California court that U.S. Soccer Wearhouse and other state sports stores are “openly breaking the law” by having “kangaroo-based cleats” in their stores. for sale, also from major brands. The lawsuit does not allege that the manufacturers did anything wrong.
Kangaroo products have been banned in California since 1971, with violations carrying fines up to US$5,000 and up to six months in prison.
In 2007, the California Supreme Court upheld the ban in an unrelated case involving the sale of Adidas football boots made from kangaroo leather, a ban that was extended to all kangaroo leather shoes.
However, the government has previously admitted that it has struggled to enforce the law.
The lawsuit against Adidas has been filed by animal rights groups. The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action, two animal rights organizations based in Washington DC, hope their action against Soccer Wearhouse will set a similar precedent.
In court files obtained by Guardian Australia, the organizations claim they have visited multiple Soccer Wearhouse sites and found that they sell kangaroo leather cleats. In one instance, they claim to have bought a pair of black Puma King Platinum 21 cleats.
They claim they reported their findings to state regulators for several months before taking legal action, saying that “neither the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is the agency charged with investigating and prosecuting of the wildlife trade, nor any state or provincial prosecutors, has launched a single enforcement action for violations of the kangaroo portion of Section 653o.”
Sports brands often choose to use kangaroo leather due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, but activists argue that commercial harvesting of the marsupials in Australia is inhumane and unnecessary, as synthetic alternatives are available.
This sentiment has also picked up in Europe, where pressure is mounting to ban the import of kangaroo products over animal welfare concerns. Europe is currently the largest market for kangaroo products worldwide.
Some Australian ecologists have argued that a ban on commercial trade would harm the welfare of kangaroos by allowing overpopulation, an argument that was rejected by a recent parliamentary inquiry in New South Wales.
The NSW Kangaroos Health and Welfare Survey revealed major problems with the monitoring and auditing of the culling and harvesting system, but only two of the 23 recommendations were fully adopted.
Ecologists have called for an improved national kangaroo strategy in Australia.
Soccer Wearhouse has not yet submitted a response. At the time of publication, Soccer Wearhouse had not responded to Guardian Australia’s multiple attempts to contact them for comment.
The US-based Soccer Wearhouse has no affiliation with an Australian company of the same name called Soccer Warehouse.