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Under fire report: Page 4

Under Fire

Kangaroo Farming

So serious are the problems of land degradation that the federal Government announced that the 1990s is the ‘decade of landcare’ - what a miserable failure that has been! The kangaroo industry has taken advantage of the increasing public concern over land destruction, arguing that soft footed kangaroos do not destroy the sensitive landscape and so kangaroo farming should replace sheep and cattle.

(This has caused disagreement amongst farmers as many will not publicly admit the damage they have done to the environment and others believe kangaroo farming to be unviable.)

This ‘farm the wildlife’ argument is appealing to some who would like to see introduced species removed from the arid and semi-arid zones. Even some ‘conservationists’, usually concerned about wildlife exploitation, are prepared to sacrifice the wild status of kangaroos in the belief that it is a better option than continued land destruction.
But kangaroo farming is not the answer to protecting the environment.

All it will lead to is the kangaroo industry shooting yet more wildlife and ecosystems being further destroyed. Valuing animals in purely economic terms ignores their intrinsic worth. It ignores their individuality and right to well being. It also ignores their ecological worth. It is this attitude that has led to one-third of the world’s animal genetic resources now being at risk.

Other species, when used as ‘renewable resources’, have declined or become extinct.  Even the fishing industry, with all its management programmes, quotas and massive subsidies - and knowledge of the damage it is causing by over exploitation, has still reached crisis point, with half of the world’s main fishing grounds facing environmental collapse (12). Think of any wild animal which has had a price tag put on its head  - cheetahs, whales, tigers, gorillas, chimpanzees, rhinos, seals, exotic birds, Toolache Wallaby (extinct) and the danger signs for the future of the kangaroo become clear.

The challenge is to save and preserve our remaining wildlife - not to farm it or blast it off the face of the planet.

Kangaroo Farming is Not Commercially Viable

Apart from the ecological and ethical debates, livestock farmers will not give up sheep and cattle in favour of kangaroos because it is not commercially viable.

As stated by the National Kangaroo Campaign (6), female kangaroos first breed in their second or third year, after which they produce a maximum of one offspring per year. Often mortality of pouch young is very high and drought may stop kangaroos breeding altogether. (Nature has worked out how to control populations, without the intervention of humans, over millions of years.) A young kangaroo is dependent on its mother until it is at least 14 months old and so cannot be sold as live young.

Compare this rate of reproduction with sheep. Sheep, unlike kangaroos, can produce twins. Lambs are independent of the mother within a few months and can be sold live. Sheep first breed after one year.

Kangaroos only produce two commercial products, meat and skin. Both are one-offs and require the animal to be killed. Sheep on the other hand are productive throughout their lives, producing at least one wool clip a year and meat and skin when they are slaughtered. Furthermore, whereas lambs produce 20kg of meat at three - six months old, kangaroos produce much less meat and are too small to kill before 18 months old. Only about 10 per cent of a kangaroo is useable for meat - a large red kangaroo of 60kg will only result in 6kg of prime cut meat. The rest will only be sold for pet meat or meat and bone meal.

In John Cameron’s Recovering Ground, he concludes that the kangaroo industry could only ever provide 0.5 per cent of Australia’s current meat production (13).

Furthermore, anyone trying to care for kangaroos will testify to the difficulties involved. Kangaroos suffer from eg post-capture myopathy, lumpy jaw (a fatal and highly contagious disease which is very hard to treat, meaning once contaminated an area must be free of kangaroos for at least three years), Coccidiosis and much more.
Post-capture myopathy is common and affects kangaroos after a chase or handling. Kangaroos suffer greatly from stress and an adrenalin rush can quickly kill the animal or may cause deterioration of muscles and a slower death.

The inability of kangaroos to be herded, yarded, or easily handled makes veterinary treatment and inspections difficult. It also makes farming the animal very risky.

Diseases in Kangaroos

As stated recently by agricultural scientists: “The recent series of diseases and mass mortalities in wild fauna, and emerging disease of wildlife in Australia have demonstrated the importance of wildlife disease as threats to biodiversity, human health, agriculture and trade.” (36)

It is possible that the weakened genetic pool due to continually shooting the healthiest, strongest animals is responsible for increased disease levels in kangaroos. Some examples include:

•       In October 1998 there was a major epidemic of an unknown disease in north-western New South Wales. The epidemic had a sudden onset, a short duration of about two weeks and high death rate (37). Most animals were found dead, some had difficulty rising and moved awkwardly. More mature kangaroos were affected than young. The epidemic had drastic effects on the population. Between 1998 and 1999 in the five affected areas, there was a 42 per cent decline in Red Kangaroos and a 46 per cent decline in Greys. In the main affected area, there was a startling 72 per cent reduction in Red Kangaroos. (This did not lead to a reduction in the quota for New South Wales for the number shot for meat.) Similar types of epidemics have also occurred in Queensland in 1990 and 1999.

•       A widespread outbreak of blindness occurred in many thousands of kangaroos between April and July 1994, and between March and June 1995, in western New South Wales, Southern Australia, north western Victoria and later, in December 1995 to April 1996 in Western Australia. Western Greys were mainly affected but also Eastern Greys, Reds and Euros succumbed - all species that are commercially killed for meat (38, 39). It is believed that the outbreaks were caused by a virus (possibly the Wallal virus) spread by insects but the factors leading to the epidemic are unknown (38).

Parasites in Kangaroo Meat

Agricultural scientists identify a complete lack of “preparedness” to cope with wildlife diseases in Australia (36). Indeed the federal minister for agriculture, Warren Truss, issued a press release on 12 April 2001 stating that kangaroo meat does not represent any health risks! However he has still not backed up this statement with evidence.

Kangaroos harbour a vast range of parasites - many increase with stress and crowding.

Speare et al (14) neatly sums up the problem:

“Both species of Grey kangaroos may be infected with 30,000 nematodes from 20 different species...

“A forceful advertising campaign will be required to convince the consumer of the unique health benefits of Pelecitus Roemeri (large nematode worm which in southern Queensland infects 18 per cent of M. gigantus, 6 per cent of M. rufus and 22 per cent of M. robustus...).”

Dr David Obendorf, Wildlife Veterinary Pathologist, Australian member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the International Animal Health Body, Paris (Office des Internationale epizootes), with 20 years experience in the parasites and diseases of Australian fauna says:

“Kangaroos and wallabies can harbour a wide range of parasitic bacterial, fungal and viral diseases and most of the infections are inapparent (ie the animal looks normal). Even meat inspection procedures are unlikely to detect some infections unless gross lesions are apparent or samples are taken for testing.

“Worldwide, it is well recognised that so-called game meats are a source of infections for consumers, especially when care is not taken while eviscerating and handling the carcasses or when the meat is served undercooked or raw.

“In the last 25 years or so, of 35 new or newly recognised infections in humans, 20 (57 per cent) have been zoonotic in origin - some trivial, some devastating to both the individual and the community.

“In Australia, Toxoplasmosis and Salmonellosis are two infections with public health significance directly related to the handling, processing and consumption of kangaroo meat. A recent food-borne outbreak of Toxoplasmosis caused acute clinical illnesses in 12 humans and one case of congenital chorio-retinitis (inflammation of the eye tissue) in a new born baby. The mother of the baby with the other 12 people had attended a function at which rare kangaroo medallions were served. A thorough epidemiological examination concluded that the most likely risk food was the kangaroo meat.”

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a protozoan parasite; symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, muscle pains and liver dysfunction lasting one to four weeks. The cysts are killed by thorough cooking, but survive in rare cooked meats. As kangaroo meat is often undercooked, chances of infection are greater.

A scientific report from the International Health Organisation warns that wild animal meats which are raw, undercooked, dried or cold-smoked are potentially infectious to animal or humans that eat them.

Dr Obendorf states: “The concern is that chefs recommend cooking methods which would not kill this [Toxoplasma] parasite.” (22)

He continues: “I know of no comprehensive or recent serological or direct parasitic survey of kangaroos for Toxoplasma prevalence. It would seem very necessary that Australian authorities can reassure ‘roo meat consumers about the safety of this product. Toxoplasma is one defined public health risk associated with game meat from Australia. In addition there is no data available to assess whether these free-ranging pseudo-ruminants (ie macropod marsupials) are likely to have any transmissible spongiform encephalopathy conditions.
“In the case of Toxoplasma, the ‘absence of evidence’ of disease freedom, - in itself is concerning, as importing WTO member countries should be requiring the ‘evidence of absence’ before permitting this meat to be made freely available or stipulating that (1) meat undergoes processing measures to kill this organism through freezing for a defined period of time and/or (2) labelling the meat with a warning and providing precise cooking instructions to customers. This should be a basic requirement for minimising the food-borne risk against Toxoplasma infection.” (35)

Australian doctors in 1997 warned of a new threat to human health from eating kangaroo meat. Two victims have been identified and one, a Tasmanian man, suffered a mysterious illness for many years before eventually being placed on a ventilator. He was unable to stand and was losing his power of speech before the parasite was detected. (The nematode worm inhabits muscle cells making it very difficult to detect.) 

Dr Erika Cox, clinical microbiologist at Launceston General Hospital, said:  “Laboratory tests suggest a new species of microscopic worm is responsible.”  She added: “People who eat kangaroos and wallabies are at risk of all kinds of parasites that are not normally studied because they don't occur in livestock.”

Professor John Goldsmid, medical microbiologist at the University of Tasmania, claims that the cases illustrate how little is known about the potential for ‘native’ animals to infect humans. He also questions the safety of exporting ‘native’ meats from Australia to countries such as the UK and maintains that further research is needed. He stressed that the trend to undercook kangaroo involved “probable dangers”. (15)

Kangaroos are killed in the outback where even basic hygiene procedures would be difficult to follow

Dr Obendorf says: “Australia has no dedicated research or diagnostic facility to investigate wildlife diseases. Detections of new diseases are handled on an ad hoc basis by government or university laboratories”.

 

Some states of Australia rejected kangaroo meat for many years because of lack of hygiene and control in the killing of these animals. In fact in most states it only became legal to sell kangaroo meat for human consumption in 1993!

One in two kangaroos may harbour Salmonella (16). Killing in the outback and the time delay between processing and cool storing is obviously a problem for bacterial contamination. Shooters are supposed to carry out pre-death inspections - monitoring the movement of an animal to determine if there is any apparent indication of sickness. Shooting animals at night requires them to be static, transfixed by the spotlight so any such inspections are impossible. If the animal is ill and the meat becomes fevered after death, the dark colouring of kangaroo meat ensures there are few visual indications of the condition.

Because of the many external and internal parasites, kangaroos killed between sunset and sunrise are supposed to be placed under refrigeration within two hours of sunrise. Shooters often travel long distances for their night’s kill and in summer there are few hours of darkness. Again there is no monitoring of this regulation and no supervision that can reject meat delayed through mechanical breakdown or from vehicles which have become bogged down. The whole process of regulation is worthless.

As Wally Curran, secretary of the Australian Meat Industries Employees Union, stated:

“The only thing game about kangaroo meat is that you would need to be game to eat it.”

Kangaroo skin exports (2001*)

 

number of skins

Italy

450530

Japan

259817

Indonesia

211245

Germany

161659

Hong Kong

141683

New Zealand

83687

USA

60650

United Arab Emirates

60000

India

59408

China

51126

Korea

39439

Vanuata

28313

Thailand

25622

Bangladesh

15000

Taiwan

11153

Burma

10077

Singapore

8539

Fiji

6936

Philipines

3840

Malayasia

3310

UK

2662

Turkey

2400

Dominican Republic

1277

New Caledonia

210

Pakistan

201

South Africa

80

Zimbabawe

80

Canada

80

Brunei

40

Denmark

8

 

 

Total

1699072

 

 

Source: Environment Australia
* Latest detailed figures available 

The Skin Trade

Whilst in the UK Viva!’s campaign against the kangaroo meat industry can be called an unequivocal success, unfortunately the skins are still sold to international markets and make up a vital part of the dead kangaroo’s value, with exports totalling $22 million in 2004 (71).

Kangaroo skin is used to make sporting goods such as football boots, running shoes, cycling shoes, baseball mitts and golf bags; also other accessories including hats, belts and bags. Whole skins are used as rugs, and perversely, the scrotums of male kangaroos are turned into novelty purses. Shockingly, as will be discussed later, it is actually football boot manufacturers who are the biggest users of kangaroo skin.

In New South Wales and South Australia shooting kangaroos for their skins only is illegal. However in Queensland - the State with the highest level of commercial killing - and in Western Australia, it does occur. In Western Australia, the percentage of kangaroos shot for their skins only is relatively small, but in Queensland, the incidence of skin-only-shooting is high.

Skin-only-shooting takes place in remote areas where it is simply not possible to get kangaroo carcasses to a processing plant in time to comply with hygiene regulations. When the price of kangaroo meat drops, skin-only-shooting may increase as it becomes economically unviable to transport the meat long distances to processing plants.
According to John Kelly of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, 10 per cent of kangaroos who are killed commercially are killed for their skins (46). However, by our own calculations, it seems that it is at least double that.

In 2002, RSPCA Australia prepared for Environment Australia the Kangaroo Shooting Code compliance: A Survey of the Extent of Compliance with the Requirements of the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos. This was based on figures for the year 2000 (and has not been updated as of time of writing), in that year 1,378,505 kangaroos were killed commercially in Queensland (47), 559,419 of whom were shot for their skins only (48) ie 41 per cent of the total commercial kill for that state. The total kill figure across the states for 2000 was 2,746,402 (49), meaning the kangaroos killed for their skins in Queensland account for 20 per cent of the total harvest. That percentage does not take into account kangaroos also killed for their skins in Western Australia.

The sale of the skins is as profitable to the shooter as the sale of the meat. According to Pat O’Brien of the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia: “[Shooters] get about $10 to $15 (Australian dollars) for a large skin, and a similar amount for meat. If they shoot a large animal for meat and skins, they get $20 to $30. However, skin only shooting is more economical because they don’t have to worry about getting meat back to a chiller. They camp in the scrub for a couple of weeks, and come back to town when they have run out of food or have a truck-full of skins.” (50)

Running Scared

Kangaroo skins may well be used for items including fashion accessories and rugs but it is sporting goods manufacturers who are the kangaroo skin industry’s biggest customers. In July 2002 a press release issued by the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia entitled ‘The kangaroo industry is under attack and needs your help’ appeared on www.e-xoticmeat.com, a website dedicated to promoting to the sale of ‘exotic meats’ – in other words, the slaughter of wild animals for profit (51).

The release begins:

“A United Kingdom based radical animal liberation organisation called Vegetarians International Voice for Animals has launched a campaign targeting Adidas and other manufacturers for their use of kangaroo leather in top class soccer boots.”

It continues:

“This [soccer boot] market is vital to the kangaroo industry. Without it underpinning kangaroo skin prices the entire industry would be at risk.”

The desperate call for help ends with:

“Can you please take a few minutes to drop a note to Adidas and the other major users of kangaroo leather, reassuring them that there is public support for the use of kangaroo goods ... The Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia thanks you in advance for your help and support.”

There for all to read is confirmation straight from the horse’s mouth that football boot manufacturers are the driving force behind the kangaroo massacre and that it is companies such as Adidas who are keeping the whole kangaroo industry afloat!

 

A Viva! activist, dressed as the Grim Reaper, takes position outside the Stockport Adidas Centre as part of a national Day of Action

Killing for Kicks

 

The sporting goods market is dominated by US-based Nike in first place and the German company Adidas-Salomon in second (52). Whilst Nike holds the lion’s share of the market for sporting goods in general, Adidas hold 70 per cent of the market for professional football boots (53). Adidas recently bought Reebok International Ltd for $3.8 billion, which gives it around 20 per cent of the US market, putting it better in a position to challenge Nike (60).

Adidas used kangaroo skin to make several different models of sports shoe, but its Predator range of professional football boots are the most well known – and the highest selling. In 2002, Adidas sold over 500,000 pairs of the Predator Mania boot (54).

In 2004, Adidas launched another major football boot made of kangaroo leather - the F50+.

(Note: Adidas were not the only manufacturers using kangaroo skin – Nike, Umbro, Kappa, Mizuno, Diadora, Lotto, Reebok and Kelme are just some of the other companies who use kangaroo skin to make at least one model of football boot or running shoe. The French company Carnac uses kangaroo skin for cycling shoes.)

Viva! contacted Adidas on many occasions, including giving copies of video footage filmed on a kangaroo hunt showing a hunter shooting a protected kangaroo and stamping on a baby joey’s head to kill it. Despite these obvious examples of cruelty being captured on film, Adidas refuses to acknowledge the part it is playing in the cruelty by continuing to buy the skins, and has stated that as long as the industry is ‘legal’, it will continue to use kangaroo skin.

At a meeting in February 2003 between Claudia Tarry, Viva! campaigner, and Frank Henke (Global Director of Social and Environmental Affairs) and Anne Putz (Corporate PR Manager) of Adidas-Salomon, the Adidas representatives displayed an alarming lack of knowledge about the practices of the industry they so vociferously support and defend.
When asked if Adidas approved of the killing of joeys, which routinely takes place when pregnant/nursing females are killed, Mr Henke commented that Adidas buys skins mostly from male animals. When asked how he knew this to be true he answered that the suppliers told him. When presented with the fact that if Adidas buy skins “mostly” from male animals, then at least some of the skins must come from females – and therefore involve the killing of joeys – Mr Henke’s response was: “That is your own conclusion.” Given the facts, it is, surely, the only conclusion that can be reached!

When Mr Henke was asked if Adidas approved of hunters killing the joeys by bludgeoning, decapitating them or shooting them in the head, he emphatically answered “no!” – but went on to add: “But that is referring to hunters acting outside of the Code of Practice, and we only buy skins from hunters who comply with the Code.” Mr Henke has obviously not even bothered to read the Code of Practice, which his organisation speaks so highly of and maintains is an assurance of humane killing – because those three methods of disposing of the baby joeys are precisely the way the Code of Practice recommends!

In 2004, Viva! campaigner Justin Kerswell once again wrote to Mr Henke, including articles which clearly illustrated that not only is the kangaroo killing industry unsustainable, the Government in Australia is aware of this but is so reliant on the trade that it is taking no steps to tackle the issue.

Sent as evidence of the population crisis to Adidas were two articles published in the Australian Daily Telegraph by environmental editor Simon Benson (64, 65).

The articles detailed how leaked Government documents have showed that “kangaroo populations have declined so much in the past 12 months there would not be enough to meet the demands of the kangaroo industry”.  The article ‘Too few roos to go round’ goes on to say that, “The situation was ‘unprecedented’ in that commercial demands now far outweighed the sustainable population, according to an internal Department of Environment document. … Falling numbers meant industry demands would not be met over the next two to four years. … “This situation is unprecedented in the history of the kangaroo industry and the Kangaroo Management Plan”.”

Benson, points out that there is “deep concern” by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) about the conservation of kangaroo populations, already decimated by drought – and that “… numbers are as low as they have been in 22 years”. It is telling that the Kangaroo Industry Association themselves have expressed concern (in another leaked document), but rather than ending this trade, have campaigned for minimum size limits due to “marked effects on stock supply”. The opening up of new commercial killing fields is the industry’s desperate attempt to keep itself afloat. In ‘Hunt begins in new kangaroo zones’, a source on the Government’s own kangaroo management advisory committee responded by saying: “It is unjustifiable and unacceptable. There are small numbers of kangaroos.”

The articles also detail how internal NPWS documents show that the Government was warned three years ago about the increasing demand for kangaroo ‘product’ and the subsequent “ problems with sustaining populations”.  However, the NPWS actually recommended that quotas for 2004 be kept at current levels. The article goes on to state that the NPWS’ kangaroo management division – the body responsible for advising the Government on cull quotas – is entirely funded by money it receives from the kangaroo industry.
Also sent to Adidas was the article ‘Roo shortage in SA’, from an Australian rural news website (66), which details that the situation is so dire that even ‘field processors’ are leaving the industry in droves. Also, we sent evidence that one of Adidas’ main claims – that they only accepted skins from kangaroos that were killed humanely – was false: BBC Wildlife Magazine published details how an Australian court has heard that kangaroo meat and skin is being exported on to world markets (such as Adidas) “without verification the animals were killed humanely”. (67)

In communication both with Viva! and members of the public who write to complain, Adidas refuse to address the killing of joeys. They obviously realise that it is indefensible.

The kangaroo industry and kangaroo processing plants are – unsurprisingly – very reluctant to divulge how many pairs of shoes come from one dead kangaroo. Requests for such information to both the KIA and Packer Leather, the largest specialist tanner and supplier of kangaroo leather products, have been ignored on several occasions.

It is very difficult to estimate how many kangaroos are killed to make football boots. However, this information is provided by Dr David Croft of the University of New South Wales:

“I expect since most leather shoes only have a leather upper that several pairs (2-5) could be made. I understand that there is some wastage from males since fighting scars the abdominal skin.” (55)

Even if we are generous and assume that five pairs of shoes are made out of each kangaroo skin, 500,000 pairs of Predator Mania boots equates to 100,000 dead kangaroos! And that figure, of course, does not take into account the joeys who are killed when pregnant and/or nursing female kangaroos are killed. Adidas have the blood of hundreds of thousands of kangaroos on their hands – and tragically, many of today’s top international footballers wear the products of the butchery on their feet.

David Beckham is one the highest paid football players in the world. Until recently, he promoted the Adidas Predator football boot made from kangaroo skin. In 2006, he moved over to synthetic materials, largely in response to Viva!’s campaign

David Beckham: Profit Over Principles?

 

Adidas is well aware of the value of ‘celebrity’ endorsement and spends tens of millions of dollars each year on corporate and individual sponsorship. It owns a 10 per cent share in Bayern Munich football team and sponsors international stars of the sports world. Perhaps the most well known, and highly paid, sportsman on its books is David Beckham, captain of the England football team who uprooted from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2003. Adidas pay Beckham £4 million per year (56) to wear and promote its goods, including until recently the kangaroo skin Predator boot. In 2005, Beckham unveiled his new personal logo at the Adidas-Salomon Global Headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, extending his contract with the company until 2008 (57).
Viva! has written to David Beckham on several occasions. In 2003, we wrote to him care of his then manager Tony Stephens at SFX Sports Group, telling him about the cruelty he is supporting by wearing kangaroo skin boots, and on one occasion sending by recorded delivery a letter and copy of the video Killing for Kicks both to his home address in Hertfordshire and care of SFX. Mr Stephens has ignored most correspondence from Viva! completely, however in February 2003, in response to a letter from Viva! once again asking David to switch to promoting synthetic boots instead, Mr Stephens replied saying: “Your letter to David… arrived this morning… I will be in Manchester with David tomorrow evening and will discuss it with him then.” (58)

 

Whilst David Beckham no longer wears boots from kangaroo skin, the majority of Adidas’s newest range is still made from kangaroo leather

This confirmed that Beckham was indeed aware of the cruel kangaroo skin industry and that far from being protected from the issue by his management company, they were in fact going to discuss it with him in person. It is rather tragic, then, that after that meeting in Manchester, neither Tony Stephens nor Beckham himself ever got back to us and ignored consecutive attempts at a dialogue. As a result of this we could only conclude that David Beckham put money before morals and was happy to promote a product which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of adult kangaroos and their babies, because he was paid to do so.

 

Beckham has since appointed 19 Entertainment as his agents. In 2005, he launched the Predatorpulse Dragon made from kangaroo leather. In August 2005, major stories appeared in the major British newspapers The Sunday Times ‘Beckham kangaroo boots get kicking’ (61) and the Daily Express ‘Your kangaroo boots are killers, Beckham is told’ (62). Sam Relph in the Daily Express wrote: “Animal rights group Viva! claims the Adidas Predator Pulse promoted by Beckham is partly responsible for the world's biggest annual wildlife slaughter, in which baby kangaroos are killed”. Both papers graphically outlined the Australian Government’s guidelines for the disposal of joeys: “By decapitation or heavy blow to the skull to destroy the brain.” Beckham and Adidas were once again confronted with the stark reality and their part in the bloody slaughter down under. In response, Adidas hid behind the same weak rebuttals they have been espousing for years, whilst Beckham’s agents were quoted as saying: “He would consider evidence from Viva! but he was guided by Adidas on the humane killing of kangaroos”.

In November 2005 Adidas announced a new version of the Predator football boot: the +Predator Absolute. The Beckham signature version of this boot (the Cardinal/Silver) is synthetic! Finally, after years of persuasion by Viva!, Beckham has come to his senses and no longer supports the largest massacre of land mammals in the world today. This about-face prompted headlines around the world, including a major story in the Independent on Sunday in February 2006. Sadly, this new found conscience doesn’t stretch right across Adidas, as the rest of the Absolute range continues to be made from kangaroo leather, as does much of the current F50 range. It begs the question, why, if this new synthetic boot designed for Beckham is the ‘best ever’, does Adidas continue to peddle the skins of dead kangaroos? Surely, if it’s good enough for arguably the best football player in the world it’s good enough for everyone else!

Viva! has campaigned at major football events in the last five years, in an attempt to end the use of kangaroo leather in the production of football boots

Friends and Foe

 

In February 2003, the campaign against kangaroo slaughter gained an unexpected ally, in the form of the designer of the original Predator football boot, the ex-Liverpool FC, Australian football player Craig Johnston.

Johnston invested over a million pounds of his own money developing a shoe that, due to the combination of its high-tech design and the use of modern, synthetic fabrics, allowed the wearer to give the ball more control, more power and more swerve. Adidas secured the rights to manufacture the revolutionary product in the early 1990s and the Predator went on to become the world’s best selling football boot.

Once Adidas were in control of production they decided to start making it out of kangaroo skin, claiming that it is lightweight, strong, and has a high tensile strength. In February 2003, Mr Johnston expressed his views about Adidas’ decision:

“The original model [of the Predator] was an all-rubber shoe. Synthetics, rubbers and new materials are definitely the future of football boots. I don’t agree with killing kangaroos.” (59)

Adidas may have consciously decided to fly in the face of modern design and technology by using the skins of butchered kangaroos rather than state-of-the-art synthetic materials, apart from the new Beckham synthetic boot, but thankfully Nike, Adidas’ number one rival in the sporting goods arena, has realised that synthetic materials are the way ahead. In fact, Nike has developed KNG-100: synthetic kangaroo skin. It is used in the manufacture of the Air Zoom professional boot, favoured by top class international players including Figo, Totti, Davids and Carlos.

The best endorsement for synthetic boots comes in the shape of the Brazilian football player Ronaldo, arguably the best footballer in the world. Ronaldo, who has a lifetime sponsorship deal with Nike, wears the Mercurial Vapor, which is made of a fabric they call Nikeskin, also 100 per cent synthetic and 50 per cent more durable than leather. (NB unfortunately, Nike continue to make one range of football boot, the Tiempo Premier, out of kangaroo skin.)

Interestingly, while Adidas place their kangaroo skin Predator at the top end of the price range, selling them for more than £100 a pair in a deliberate attempt to market them as a top quality product, Nike’s synthetic models are the more expensive boots with its kangaroo skin boots being considerably cheaper.

Viva! takes on Adidas

In 2003, Viva!USA filed a lawsuit against Adidas America Inc and three sports shops for illegally selling kangaroo skin Predator boots in California. 

California has often been a leader in progressive legislation and in the 1970s passed a law to protect kangaroos, crocodiles and alligators by prohibiting the import and sale of products made from their body parts. It was a commendable attempt to protect wildlife from commercial exploitation and keep it where it belongs - in the wild. In what appears to be a direct flouting of this penal code, Adidas has been selling its kangaroo skin Predator boots in sports shops around the state.

Having discovered this potential law breaking, Viva!USA found attorneys willing to take on the case pro bono and the lawsuit was filed. Reuters, Associated Press and all major wire services sent the news around the world and international media immediately picked up on it. The day the lawsuit was filed – Adidas’ share price dropped!

In what seems more than coincidence, California state senator Dennis Hollingsworth introduced a bill into the state legislature to repeal that same penal code on which our action is based, but it was eventually quashed. 2004 saw two bills introduced, but both were unsuccessful due to lobbying by lauren Ornelas of Viva!USA.

In 2005, despite the overwhelming evidence supplied by Viva!USA to show that it was vital to keep the ban in place, Assembly woman Nicole Parra (Representing Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties – and supported by Adidas) introduced the bill AB734 to overturn it.  Once again Senators listened to reason, and it was stopped in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

However, in November 2005 the First District Court of Appeal ruled that California’s ban on importing shoes and other items made from the hides of Australian kangaroos cannot be enforced as federal law takes precedence, despite California state law clearly banning such sales.

Viva! Attorney Orly Degani announced the group is considering an appeal to the California Supreme Court, saying “We're talking about a very cruel practice that the California Legislature does not want to condone.”

Viva! will continue to lead the boycott of Adidas, and will do so until they finally face facts and cease killing for kicks.

 

Viva! victory! Adidas and Nike withdraw for kangaroo leather trade

In 2010 Nike stated: 'We are moving towards eradicating the use of kangaroo leather altogether'. 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1288639/WORLD-CUP-2010-John-Terry-kangaroo-skin-football-boots.html#ixzz3lqXPehsZ 
 

A year later, Adidas announced it was withdrawing its use of kangaroo leather. This was largely due to Viva!s campaigning.

 

The Future: Tourism?

It is tragic that some people need to put a commercial value on wildlife. They have no true appreciation or understanding of the natural world and are intent on destroying it. They feel the world belongs to them; that they have the right to kill other species because it gives them pleasure, a rush of power and money - or because of sheer ignorance. Any pretence that killing kangaroos is to ‘prevent extinction’ or to ‘control pests’ is simply an attempt to gain public and media acceptance. However, the kangaroo industry is not a benign force - it is destructive, cruel and brutal and responsible for the worst land wildlife massacre this planet has seen.

 

Australia’s national symbol is worth more alive than dead. Eco-tourism could bring in excess of $100 billion; the kangaroo industry earns Australia only $200 million yearly in comparison

It is ironic that if you do accept that wildlife can be valued monetarily, then kangaroos are worth more alive than dead. Stafford Smith (1994) has shown that the value of mining and tourism in the Australian rangelands far outstrips pastoralism and the relatively paltry income from killing kangaroos. Dr David Croft, School of Biological Science, UNSW, says: “International nature-based tourism had a value to Australia of $6.6 billion in 1995. More than half this expenditure was in national parks.” Despite the almost complete lack of promotion of a great wildlife experience in the Australian outback, tourists spent $343 million in 1995 on outback safaris (the kangaroo industry is worth around $200 million in 2005 - less if you take into account subsidies). Croft says: “Many an outback tourist will lament that of the few kangaroos they saw, the majority were roadkills.” (43)

 

In Australia, outback safaris account for only around 3 per cent of tourist activity – despite the fact that these tourists spend twice the average and considerably more in other outdoor activities such as scuba diving. It is therefore astonishing that this obvious potential is almost untapped. Australian politicians are also well aware of the power of the kangaroo as an icon to sell tourism to those overseas – a report for the Parliament of Victoria into Ecotourism mentions that “such icons are strongly linked with our national image and are at least partially responsible for tourism income of hundreds of millions of dollars”. The same report notes the incredible potential for ecotourism by discussing a submission to the committee that estimates the conservation industry could create “a combined value of ... $10 billion with an annual turnover of $5 billion per annum. It would employ 60,000 people. It would earn Australia $100 billion per annum in wildlife tourism. It would be worth as much to Victoria as its whole primary production combined”.

Dr Croft compares the poor promotion and development of wildlife safaris in Australia with the excellent profile of South Africa. He contrasts Sturt National Park, western New South Wales with the Kalahari-Gemsbok Park in South Africa/Botswana. The climate and landscape of both parks are similar with low rainfall, hot summers, ephemeral rivers, dune fields, pans and stony plains (43).

Croft maintains that poor marketing and development of wildlife tourism in Australia means that while the Kalahari-Gemsbok Park enjoys 48,000 visitors per year with large annual growth since the release of Nelson Mandela and changes in the political system, Sturt National Park has 12,000 visitors per year. Croft argues that dingoes should be reintroduced to Sturt to help restore biodiversity and provide the drama of predation, and that the variety of mammals (especially kangaroos), reptiles (46 species) and birds (150 species) would attract many more visitors if managed correctly. He says: “We should emphasise our assets. Kangaroos have a body form unlike any other mammal. A European or American visiting Africa sees antelopes which share the same form as familiar deer, sheep and goats. In contrast, the hopping locomotion, the bipedal stance endowing the kangaroo with human-like behaviour and the joey in the pouch will leave international visitors entranced.” (43)

Croft lists the benefits of such a strategy where wildlife is admired and respected, rather than blasted to bits. They include countering the extensive criticism worldwide for needlessly killing wildlife; recognising the intrinsic worth of kangaroos and Australia’s exceptional wildlife heritage before it is too late; sustaining large populations of kangaroos as desirable and valuable; adding to the economic value of tourism; restoring biodiversity and expansion of protected areas; generating economic activity in rural communities.

Croft says: “Australia is perhaps the only country which is capable of maintaining large protected and wilderness areas without strong human population pressures on their boundaries. We cannot lecture other nations about maintenance of habitat and biodiversity if we, with the best possible circumstances, cannot get it right. It is time to show leadership and innovation on the world stage.” (43)

In 2005, Viva! launched its website: Australia’s Hidden Shame (http://www.savethekangaroo.com/tourism/), which revealed the kangaroo is second only to the Statue of Liberty as the most recognised tourist icon in the world, and called for end of the annual kangaroo slaughter and for Australia to promote and nurture its wildlife through Ecotourism. Thousands of emails were sent to both the Australian Government and the Australian tourism industry from potential holiday makers from all around the world, telling them that they would ‘think twice’ about travelling to Australia when they continued to promote themselves with the kangaroo, whilst millions of them are killed every year out of the view of tourists.

Viva! Concludes

Throughout human history, massacres of animals have taken place for pleasure or monetary gain.  Each and every one of them, from the harpooning of whales to the shooting of passenger pigeons, the near annihilation of Africa’s wildlife to the hunting of otters, foxes and deer, has been justified, excused and encouraged by those with a personal interest in the killing. Their arguments have, without exception, been proved wrong.

Human treatment of the wildlife of this globe and the habitats essential for its survival is a calamity. Those responsible appear to have learned nothing from history and continue to offer the same insupportable excuses for short-term commercial advantage. The fate of the world’s wildlife is increasingly being determined by politicians and shop keepers who exclude morality from their decision making. 

Viva! has stopped 1,500 supermarket stores from selling kangaroo flesh nationwide. We believe that the British public does not want the world’s wildlife to be massacred for meat or skin. However other countries are importing the flesh and skin of these beautiful creatures. If this trade becomes further established, no wild animal will be safe. It is time for those with vision and compassion to work within Australia and in the countries that import kangaroo meat and skin on a concerted consumer campaign to stop the trade for good. Viva! plays its part, you can too!

To join the campaign to save the kangaroo, contact:
Viva!
8 York Court
Wilder Street
Bristol
BS2 8QH
Tel: 0117 944 1000
Fax: 0117 924 4646
E: info@viva.org.uk
W: www.viva.org.uk
www.savethekangaroo.com