For decades, California banned the import and sale of all products made from kangaroos — including food and shoes, particularly high-end soccer cleats — out of concern for their conservation. The Legislature twice agreed to lift the ban on kangaroos temporarily at the urging of the Australian government and companies that use kangaroo in their products — in 2007 for three years, and again in 2010 for five years. But with neither house passing a kangaroo-imports bill by this year's deadline, the ban appeared set to go back into place in January.
Or not. This week, Assemblyman Mike Gipson, a freshman Democrat from Carson, took a bill he'd steered through the Assembly to regulate card club employees, stripped it and replaced its contents with language permanently allowing kangaroo parts to be imported into California and sold here. That sort of maneuver is called a "gut and amend," and it's not uncommon in the Legislature. In some instances, there are legitimate reasons for it. This is not one of those times. Instead, Gipson is simply trying to make an end run — mainly at the behest of the Australian government — around a full hearing in the legislative process. Legislators should kill the bill or hold it for scrutiny next year.
The Australian government argues that the kangaroo population is robust, numbering in the tens of millions, and sustainable. And Gipson says that the kangaroo trade has become economically important to California. On the other side, some ecologists, conservationists and animal welfare advocates contend that the government doesn't survey the population accurately. In fact, they say, there is evidence that red kangaroos — the ones generally hunted for their hides — cover a substantially smaller portion of their range than they once did, an indication that their numbers are down.
This is the largest commercial killing in the world of wildlife on the land, and many have criticized the cruelty of it. Hunters who kill adult female kangaroos with joeys in their pouches take the young out and either bludgeon them to death or decapitate them. Adidas largely stopped using kangaroo leather for its shoes several years ago.
In other words, there's plenty to be discussed, debated and analyzed here, and that should happen in a full legislative process before the ban on kangaroo products that was established in 1970 is permanently reversed. There's no defense for Gipson's last-minute legislative sleight of hand.