Tonight, as you sleep, hunters will be out in the dark with their spotlights, terrorizing, shooting, maiming, and killing a beloved national icon. This tragedy occurs each time the sun goes down across Australia. It’s a nightly affair, conveniently removed from the experiences of the majority of Australians and Nike customers.
Kangaroo imagery appears on Australia’s coat of arms. A kangaroo is featured as the logo of the national airline. It is the name of the national rugby league and soccer teams, and it is the boxing kangaroo mascot instantly recognized across the globe. Despite the ubiquity of kangaroos in popular culture and commerce, most Australians are unaware of the war being waged against their very existence.
Horses are exotic; kangaroos are not – Nike
Millions of kangaroos are slaughtered every year. Their flesh is chopped up for pet food, and Nike will turn their skin into high-end soccer boots.
Kangaroos are one of the world’s most loved and iconic species. With grace and majesty that is unmatched, they bound effortlessly across the deserts, rangelands, and forests of land to which they are uniquely adapted. Australia is the only place in the world you will find kangaroos, and they have survived and lived in harmony with their environment for over 15 million years. They travel large distances on their two hind legs, expending little energy and needing minimal water. With their bipedal movement, their long, strong tail, their small front paws, and twitching ears, kangaroos are singular. Most would say kangaroos are exotic. Why does Nike disagree?
Nike’s policy on using animal skins prohibits using any skin considered “exotic or protected” and forbids the use of animals like lions, tigers, rhinos, and horses. This policy is irrational and arbitrary. A horse, an animal that has been domesticated for thousands of years and exists in large numbers around the world, is considered exotic but not a wild kangaroo. While we do believe horses also should be protected, this classification system is meaningless and insincere. It’s time for this Fortune 100 Company to consider kangaroos just as untouchable as horses, cheetahs, or crocodiles.
Bludgeoning baby joeys is humane – Nike
Nike promotes itself as a responsible corporate global citizen and points to its animal welfare, ethical, and sustainable policies. Nike’s policies specify that any wild animals killed for their shoe leather must be sourced from “actively managed” populations with government agency oversight. This policy has no practical meaning when one discovers that Nike uses kangaroo skins after commercial shooters maim, orphan, and kill the animals in the wild, in unmonitored mass shootings of entire kangaroo families.
The reality of the slaughter puts the lie to the promise to source animal products derived from “humane animal treatment/slaughtering practices.” Nothing could be further from the blood-soaked truth when it comes to sourcing kangaroo skins for its “k-leather” shoes.
Australian government documents, recently leaked to the press, reveal the scale of the noncompliance with Nike policies and standards and point instead to incurable animal welfare problems.
During an inquiry in the Parliament in the Australian state of New South Wales about kangaroos, the government heard shocking evidence. Expert testimony demonstrated that up to 40 percent of kangaroos shot for the commercial industry do not die quickly or from a “humane clean quick shot to the head” and that there is no monitoring at the point of kill. The total collateral kill of joeys is between 500,000 and 800,000 each year. The “waste joeys,” as the industry calls them, are either bludgeoned to death or decapitated by the shooters after the death of their mother. In many cases, the joey flees after their mother is killed and are left to die slowly and alone, falling victim to predation or starvation.
After this inquiry, the reality of the commercial industry was made public, and Australians learned there is no active management and virtually no government oversight. The commercial kangaroo industry is a blood-and-guts enterprise: kangaroos with their mouths blown off, bashed with iron bars, dragged alive behind the trucks of “professional commercial harvesters.”
With this heartbreaking information, it is time questions must be asked of Nike. How does the company ensure its humane policies and standards are enforced? Why are all skins from China and India banned, but kangaroo skins from an unregulated industry pass muster? Does Nike purely rely on reassurances that Australia, a western country, is enforcing animal welfare and sustainability standards? Or does Nike consider it ‘”humane” to bludgeon or decapitate baby joeys after their mothers are shot to death?
The lawmakers participating in the New South Wales inquiry aggregated evidence from a range of scientists who revealed that kangaroo populations in NSW are in serious decline and that commercial harvesting of kangaroos is a major factor. Kangaroos are disappearing from the landscapes they once recently inhabited. These localized extinctions are what precedes actual extinction, and given that Australia has one of the worst rates of mammal extinctions on record, alarm bells should sound for the entire world.
The declines in kangaroo populations are real. Queensland has the biggest commercial industry and is suffering the largest decline in kangaroo populations. Between 2019 and 2021, the combined loss of kangaroos was 9.3 million, which represents over 42 percent of the total population.
Nike, this is your regulated industry. These are your’ “actively managed’ managed” populations. In addition to the video from New York City, you can see a video of the Australian protest here.
Nike needs to account for its role in the commodification and commercialization of wildlife. Nike’s wildlife protection policies are hollow and unenforceable. What remains is the bitter reality that one of the world’s best-known brands is one of the biggest contributors to the largest terrestrial slaughter of wildlife in the world.
Nike uses kangaroo leather (k-leather) in only four models of their Premier and Tiempo soccer cleats. Only minimal changes would be required for the company to cleanse its brand and use existing alternatives. Yet, Nike released a new version of its Tiempo Legend and chose to ignore over 75,000 petition signatures from supporters around the world, protest letters of Olympic athletes, billboards near the Nike campus, a 60-second film tweeted to a million people, and the introduction of the Kangaroo Protection Act (H.R.917) in Congress to stop the trade of kangaroo products in the United States.
Nike has not responded to an open letter signed by 18 (U.S. and Australian) organizations and three Australian parliamentarians. What are they afraid of? It must be their supply chain.
Today, Nike continues their use of kangaroo skin and supports a commercial industry whose methods fall well outside the bounds of what any reasonable person would consider ‘”humane animal treatment” and are in violation of their policies.
California already bans the sale of kangaroo products, and we are helping to ensure this law is enforced and a ban is enacted nationwide. On the global level, the International Kangaroo Protection Alliance is working alongside dozens of organizations and experts to protect kangaroos and shut down the commercial market. The Animal Justice Party has been a leader in this effort putting forward legislation to ban the exports of kangaroo products in New South Wales. World Animal Protection in the Netherlands has had recent success convincing leading retailer bol.com and specialty skate producer Viking to stop selling kangaroo products. And now, the Dutch government is pushing for a ban on kangaroo products throughout the European Union.
It is time for Nike to stop using the skin of native iconic wildlife in its products. And until Nike ends the hollow promises and adopts tangible and meaningful policies, we will continue to protest at the places where their unknowing customers gather. Around the world. Please help us.
This article by Natasha Dolezal and Louise Ward was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 6 April 2022. Lead Image Source : Nattawit Khomsanit/Shutterstock.
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