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Editorial: California bans the sale of shoes made from dead kangaroos. It’s the law, so enforce it

A kangaroo hops through the outback landscape near Marree, Australia.
A kangaroo hops through the outback landscape near Marree, Australia.
(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

For most of the last half-century, California has banned the sale of any item made from kangaroos, which are killed in mass slaughters for commerce each year in Australia. Enforcement of the law was suspended in 2007 — at the urging of the Australian government and companies that sell products made from the skins — but the ban resumed in 2016 and has been in effect ever since.

Yet that didn’t completely stop the sale of popular kangaroo leather soccer cleats in California, which is considered the largest market for soccer shoes in the world with Los Angeles one of the most soccer-obsessed cities in the country.

Cleats made of so-called k-leather are sought after for their light weight and strength, and dozens of California stores have continued selling them in their shops as well as online, according to a lawsuit recently filed by national animal welfare groups, Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, against one retailer. The groups intend to sue additional stores they believe are violating the law.

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Animal welfare groups are suing a California retailer for allegedly selling kangaroo leather soccer shoes, despite a statewide ban on K-leather.

Demand from consumers and lack of enforcement by the state have made it relatively easy for stores to ignore the ban. The Center for a Humane Economy released a report in 2020 indicating that 85 out of 124 independent soccer retail stores were violating the ban. That prompted animal welfare groups to launch a campaign to encourage state enforcement and to pressure companies to stop selling the shoes, especially in light of the availability and growing popularity among professional soccer players of shoes made of synthetic non-leather materials. In 2020 the state Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to soccer retailers across the state warning them that the law would be enforced.

But the violations continued. Investigators for the groups went to dozens of stores to see whether the law was being followed. According to the lawsuit against Riverside County-based retailer Soccer Wearhouse, all of its locations — four at the time of the 2020 report — were selling kangaroo leather cleats. In 2021 and 2022, investigators found the retailer’s three open locations were still selling k-leather cleats and they say that employees they talked to knew the shoes were illegal.

Soccer Wearhouse co-owner George Laparra told an editorial writer last week that before the lawsuit was filed, “We weren’t even aware that we had them, so it was a good thing it was brought to our attention. They slip through the cracks. We got that lawsuit… We stopped selling them because of that. Online they are gone.”

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.

Perhaps inventory control is challenging, but it’s ridiculous that retailers are using that as an excuse when the ban has been in effect since 2016. Store owners — business people well aware of the various state laws under which they must operate — shouldn’t be pleading ignorance about the law or difficulty following it. These are popular, high-end shoes, not forgotten extras languishing on shelves.

Soccer Wearhouse says all of the shoes on its website and in its stores are non-kangaroo now. Nike and Puma websites prevent a shopper who wants to ship kangaroo cleats into California from proceeding with a sale.

But not all websites are that vigilant. On the Dick’s Sporting Goods site last week, a customer could readily buy a pair of Nike Tiempo Legend 9 Elite FG kangaroo leather shoes to be shipped to a Los Angeles home address. (The customer, who made the purchase only to see whether the website would let it go through, called Customer Service several minutes later and had the sale canceled.) A call to the retailer’s media line about such sales was unanswered.

California consumers can do their part to make sure this law is observed. Just don’t buy these shoes. There are plenty of quality soccer shoes in material that doesn’t require killing kangaroos.


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