Victory! Sokito Adds to Roster of Athletic Shoe Companies Ditching Kangaroo Skins

One more major win for our Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign puts additional pressure on Adidas.

Perhaps overtaken by our counterpunching to the sheer sadism of the man who killed Theia (the adolescent female wolf in Wyoming), and, just before that horror, to the immense scale of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for a long-term assault on half a million barred owls in the Pacific Northwest, the latest corporate gain in our Kangaroos Are Not Shoes campaign did not get its just due.

Citing concerns over “kangaroo population management practices and population count discrepancies” in a commercial kill managed by the Australian government, soccer-cleat maker Sokito announced last week it will no longer use kangaroo leather in the production of its shoes. Louise Ward, an expert campaigner with Australia’s Animal Justice Party, made the first entreaty to the company’s CEO, and together with the Center for a Humane Economy’s Jennifer Skiff, they worked collaboratively with him to lock in the company’s change in policy.

“As a brand that represents a sustainable and ethical choice for footballers, our materials and supply chain practices must be of the highest standard,” said Jake Hardy, founder of Sokito, a fast-rising soccer shoe company based in the United Kingdom with global distribution. “The time is right to phase out kangaroo leather.”

The decision by Sokito is especially consequential because kangaroo leather is the only animal-derived leather the company has used since its inception in 2018. “We have successfully developed a vegan-certified football boot, so we know that there are alternative materials on the market today that can perform just as well as animal leather,” Hardy said.

With this policy change, Sokito joins sportswear giants Nike, Puma, and New Balance, which each made pledges to end their sourcing of kangaroo skins for all shoes. Diadora, an Italy-based athletic shoe giant, dropped kangaroo-based shoes in 2021. These decisions were made after awareness was built by the Center for a Humane Economy through its Kangaroos Aren’t Shoes campaign.

The Center has demanded that athletic shoe companies use alternative fabrics in shoes to halt the mass wounding and killing of kangaroos in nighttime commercial shoots and the orphaning of hundreds of thousands of joeys left behind to suffer and die. Commercial shooters kill more than an estimated one million adult kangaroos in their native habitats in Australia, leaving about 300,000 joeys orphaned. Thankfully, those numbers are down by several hundred thousand since the Center launched its campaign. There is now broad awareness throughout the world of the need to halt sales of native wildlife. Yet, sadly, the slaughter of kangaroos remains the largest annual slaughter of terrestrial wildlife because the Germany-based company Adidas has yet to abandon the practice, as its major competitors have done.

Adidas has been the worst company on the planet when it comes to kangaroos. It worked diligently but unsuccessfully to reverse California’s ban on selling kangaroo parts, not only asking legislators to unwind the ban, but also taking a case to the California Supreme Court to overturn it. In other settings, the company continues to excuse the cruelty by refusing to alter its supply chain purchases.

We’ve engaged on this subject with Frank Henke, the company’s long-time senior vice president and chief of sustainability and engagement. The German national has been approachable, polite, and engaging. But he’s most certainly not adhering to company guidelines; company policy calls for sourcing “materials of animal origin in a humane, ethical, and sustainable manner concerning animal welfare and species conservation,” and Adidas’s purchasing practices contribute to the mass orphaning, bludgeoning, and starvation of the joeys. Henke and other leaders at Adidas are relying on unfounded assurances from an Australian government promoting the commercial kangaroo killing industry.

Here’s my letter in full:


Thank you for your email. As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

I must confess, though, that I am frustrated by the adidas response to the criticisms about kangaroo skins in your supply chain. Engagement and interaction are high-value activities, but I also place a high value on logical response once that dialogue is initiated. I most certainly understand your comments, on behalf of adidas, that you do not think the commercial kill of kangaroos jeopardizes the species and is therefore sustainable. What I cannot understand is your claim, grounded on assurances from the government of Australia, that the ongoing killing is “humane.” It defies reason and logic to suggest that night-time shoots that invariably result in the taking of lactating females with dependent joeys are humane. The joeys suffer in demonstrable ways. They are the collateral damage of shoots that target mature animals.

You mentioned that the RSPCA [Australia’s oldest and best-known animal welfare group] countenances the commercial take of kangaroos, but we’ve provided definitive statements from RSPCA that contradict that assertion. I’ve mentioned also that the other major animal welfare groups in Australia, including the very respected Animals Australia, are opposed to the commercial kill and these organizations believe that the killing of the lactating females and the resulting orphaning and bludgeoning or starvation of the joeys disqualifies the kill as humane. There are no government observers at these night-time shoots, making the claims of the government that it is a regulated hunt demonstrably false.

Believe me, Frank, I compliment you for your extraordinary patience and responsiveness and your tireless engagement deserves commendation. But absent a well-justified rejoinder to the expressed concerns about adidas’s role in contributing to commercial killing, that engagement is incomplete. The company’s assertions must be grounded on verifiable facts. adidas cannot seriously claim that the hunt is humane when the field activities reliably deliver inhumane outcomes for the joeys.

All that talk of inhumane treatment cannot be fully evaluated without assessing the purposes and necessity of the killing; in society, we accept some very unpleasant outcomes for animals if there is some overriding societal value for the use of animals, such as subsistence killing by non-agricultural peoples or the use of animals in painful testing for research to benefit humans or defending oneself against an animal who poses a threat. None of that is at work with adidas and its sourcing of kangaroo skins. There is no need for any of this given the availability of alternative fabrics for your shoes. That assertion is backed not only by the decision of adidas to use non-kangaroo-based fabrics for all other categories of athletic shoes but soccer. And when it comes to soccer shoes, you already offer shoe models that are high-performance and stylistically and aesthetically pleasing and used by the most elite soccer players in the world.

Cruelty has two commingled characteristics: human action that produces pain, distress, and even terror, and those types of human actions gratuitous in purpose. Adidas’s sourcing of the skins of kangaroos fails the test of “humane” behavior because the company violates both standards.

Your recent comments that adidas only uses a small percentage of kangaroos for its fabrics for shoes does not rescue adidas from this morally problematic circumstance. You don’t disclose volume, for one, so we cannot verify it. And second, is cruelty okay if it is conducted on a small scale? If that were the case, we wouldn’t prosecute an individual for bashing in the skull of a dog with a pipe or setting a single cat on fire. Prosecution of cruelty is typically grounded on individual cases because we regard even a single animal as a morally relevant subject.

I must say though, as a final word, that I do hope you keep in mind that kangaroos are native to Australia, uniquely adapted to the landscapes of Australia. They’ve survived for 15 million years, whereas humans have been residents of the Australian continent for 50,000 years — just a fraction of the time. They’ve never required the kind of “management” meted out by government and industry, and were the commercial kill to go away because foreign markets for their skins go away, can anyone logically suggest that the outcome could be worse for the animals?

Wayne Pacelle
President, Center for a Humane Economy

Sokito’s announcement came just after the Netherlands-based ASN Bank took Adidas off its list of recommended companies. Mariëtta Smid, senior manager of sustainability at ASN Impact Investors, told the Center, “We have indeed excluded Adidas from our investment universe because Adidas sources kangaroo leather and continues to do so.”

Indeed, Adidas is also the focus of a fast-spreading global protest movement. Their Turn and its relentless and effective Donny Moss are in the forefront of this effort in the United States; the AJP is tenaciously spearheading efforts in Australia; and German, Dutch, Italians, and other Europeans are taking action across that vast economic zone.

All this agitation and protest is aimed at convincing the company’s leaders to stop rationalizing their role in abetting the cruelty that runs up through its supply chain. Adidas may be able to withstand the brand damage for a while, but history will not look favorably on its decision to do so. Senior leadership at Adidas will ultimately have no choice but to recognize how short-sighted the cruelty of their business practices are. The orphans of the shoot are the victims that Adidas can no longer hide from the public.

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