Kangaroo Shoes Come Up Nearly Empty in European Football Championships

Nike drives the killing of kangaroos in the Australian Outback to make soccer cleats.

But why?

At the European Football (soccer) Championships that Italy won a week ago, kangaroo skin shoes tightly swathed the feet of a healthy number of elite players. But from our analysis, conducted with partner groups in Europe, it’s clear the shoes didn’t improve performance.

In the month-long tournament, players wearing Nikes scored 73 out of 123 total goals. But 72 out of 73 came from models made of Flyknit, a synthetic material. Only one goal was struck with a Nike shoe made from kangaroos.

Of the total 123 goals scored at Euro 2020, 115 came from synthetic, non-leather boots (93.5%). Eight goals (6.5%) came from kangaroo skin models from Adidas, Under Armour, or Nike.

When it comes to performance, kangaroo skins are an unneeded adornment. All skin and no sizzle.

The good news is, there are dozens of soccer cleat models not made from kangaroos. And when they’re laced up, they send the ball much more frequently into the back of the net.

Yet the Australian government fiercely opposes the federal Kangaroo Protection Act, H.R. 917, introduced by Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., earlier this year. Australia argues that the U.S. proposal is an outrageous intrusion into their internal affairs.

The government’s rhetoric is empty.

Would kangaroos perish if commercial shooters didn’t slaughter them?

Australia is one of a diminishing number of nations to promote mass slaughter of native wildlife and then sell the products in the global marketplace. In this case, it is supplying skins to make cleats for the most popular sport in the world. It’s no niche use, and that’s precisely why the slaughter occurs on this scale – 2 million kangaroos a year, including 400,000 joeys found in the pouch or at the foot of their slain mothers in the nighttime shooting sprees.

Why is it that of all the large mammals in the world, only kangaroos require mass slaughter to aid their survival? Do the millions of caribou on the fragile tundra in the Arctic require mass culling? Do wildebeest and zebra in the equatorial region of Africa? Are national parks throughout the world ecologically out of whack because the commercial shooters are forbidden  in them??

No, the talk of culling and shooting kangaroos is being driven by political expedience – in this case, the Australian government acting as errand boy for the cattle and sheep industries and against the interest of a nearly united Australian animal welfare community

And why do the U.S. and Europe have to participate in their killing plans?

Australia’s government – led on this issue by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud – is caterwauling about the impending calamity for farmers and ranchers if the commercial kill ceases. That essentially amounts to a moral argument for Americans and Europeans to buy Nike and adidas shoes made from kangaroos. Failure to buy these shoes will, the argument goes, destroy both the kangaroos and the farmers.  

It’s like Canada demanding Americans buy seal pelts or the Japanese asking others to buy whale meat, because without those purchases then fish stocks and the fishing industry will be sink because they’re ravaged by the marine mammals. Like kangaroos in Australia, harp and hooded seals in Canada and fin and minke whales in the western Pacific, are native species and it’s a trope for government scientists captured by industry to say that there’s some necessity to club, harpoon, or shoot these creatures for commerce. They’ve lived in harmony with the other members of the biotic community for eons.

In every case, the promotion of commercial slaughter in these nations is driven by an extractive industry attempting to attach ecological rationale for their profit-making scheme. Australia’s government may be captive to the domestic cattle and sheep industries, but the United States and Europe need not be a party to that liaison.

Australia is about the size of the United States, yet it has only eight percent of the human population. Her 26 million citizens are mostly clustered in the major east-coast cities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. The “outback” is legendary for its remoteness. There are millions of kangaroos though their exact number is unknown, given the government’s pattern of inflating census numbers to justify larger kill quotas.

Evolved over millennia, kangaroos are the largest native mammals on the continent. It’s perfectly understandable that people would see the out on the landscape. But visibility, or even irritated reactions from farmers, does not equate to an ecological problem.

There are 90 million cattle and sheep on the Australian landscape – tens and tens of millions more of these exotic species than native kangaroos. The commercial kangaroo industry has a financial stake in attempting to cast kangaroos as super-abundant marauders who trample fields or eat grasses. It’s the same playbook we’ve seen with seals, wolves, grizzly bears, and other native species targeted as threats to fishing, ranching, or other extractive industries.

Kangaroos have been around for more than a million years old

Kangaroos have long been a part of the tapestry of Australian ecosystems.  More recently they survived the Pleistocene epoch (the “ice age”) and later the introduction of dogs. Their populations have always been limited by food availability and environmental conditions. Their foraging behaviors do not compare with the devastating impacts that exotic cattle and sheep have on riparian areas and rangelands.

The government of Australia and the kangaroo killing industry falsely argue that kangaroos are the invaders. They even go so far as to impute that Aboriginals have a desire to engage in commercial slaughter of their totem animal, when their songlines and traditions say precisely the opposite.

The whole kangaroo-killing complex, financed by Nike and other athletic shoe companies, cannot stand the spotlight. It can no longer measure up to modern-day wildlife protection norms, it cannot explain away the unobserved bludgeoning of joeys, and it cannot meet the test of necessity when innovations in athletic shoe materials and design make the whole enterprise look like a foolish whim.

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