Did you know that many football boots are made from kangaroo leather? For example, the Puma King, worn by football gods like Diego Maradona, Eusébio, Lothar Matthäus and Pelé, was made of kangaroo leather for years. But what used to seem exotic and stood for quality today has an unpleasant aftertaste: for many years environmental and animal rights activists in Australia have been campaigning for the commercial, largely uncontrolled killing of wild animals to finally stop.
The problem: kangaroos are not officially threatened with extinction, in fact there was even an overpopulation for a long time. But because the animals are not bred and shot in the wild, nobody knows exactly how many animals actually die. The animal rights activists warn that the population in certain areas is now declining. In addition, the killing is cruel and not controlled. Millions of animals are killed every year for commercial purposes to be processed into meat, animal feed, leather accessories or even soccer shoes.
Vegan alternatives instead of animal suffering
The allegations have been known for a long time and some fashion brands reacted to them a few years ago, for example Versace, Prada or Diagora, which officially said goodbye to kangaroo leather in 2020.
Now Nike and Puma have followed suit. Puma has just announced that it intends to make the legendary Puma King football boot from a vegan material, the so-called K-Better, which also consists of 20 percent recycled material. But K-Better is not just a vegan alternative, according to Puma it is better than its animal predecessor. “K-Better has been proven in tests to outperform previous King K-Leather in terms of touch, comfort and durability. Puma is so confident in the performance characteristics of K-Better that the company will completely discontinue the production of football boots with kangaroo leather this year.
Nike also wants to release an update of its Tiempo football boot series soon, writes the US specialist publication Footwear News, citing a Nike official. Here, too, a synthetic material was found and from this year no more kangaroo leather will be processed.
According to press reports, Adidas already announced in 2012 that they wanted to drastically reduce the use of kangaroo leather, but without doing without it entirely.
The animal rights activists’ campaigns were repeatedly accompanied by legal initiatives aimed at banning the import or sale of kangaroo products. Just a few weeks ago, the EU had to decide whether kangaroo meat could continue to be imported – and spoke out in favor of importing it. The Netherlands is currently considering a ban.
There is also resistance in the United States. There, in January 2023, in the US state of Oregon, where Nike is headquartered, a bill was introduced to ban the sale of kangaroo parts. It wouldn’t be the only US state to go this route: kangaroo leather has been banned in the state of California since 2007.
The Australian kangaroo industry counters that the animals live in the wild, unlike cattle and other breeding animals whose meat and leather are traded. Kangaroos emit less methane, require less water, put less strain on rangeland and don’t require any energy to raise them. Kangaroo leather is therefore more environmentally friendly than conventional leather and has a lower carbon footprint.