Adidas's claims about kangaroo leather football boots questioned

Adidas remains one of the last leading shoe manufacturers to make football boots out of kangaroo.

WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT —Adidas's claims about the kangaroo leather it uses to manufacture its football boots have been questioned by wildlife advocates.

The German sportswear brand has been facing mounting pressure particularly in the United States and Australia about its controversial use of wildlife skins to fashion football boots. In March, Puma became the first major brand to announce it was phasing out “K-leather” and replace it with a durable synthetic material, days later Nike followed suite, and New Balance joined the club in September.

But adidas appears comfortable continuing to use kangaroo to manufacture football boots like its Copa Mundial range, arguing the skins it sources are animal welfare friendly.

Left - an adidas shoe made from K-leather. Right - a number of other Adidas shoes.
German shoe manufacturer adidas has responded to concerns about its use of kangaroo leather in its football boots. Source: Adidas/Getty

While adidas did not respond directly to questions from Yahoo, it issued a statement explaining why it feels comfortable using the wild animals to make boots.

“Adidas is opposed to kangaroos being killed in an inhumane or cruel manner and we certainly adhere to all applicable legal regulations,” it said in a statement. “We source the leather exclusively from suppliers that are monitored and certified by the Australian government, ensuring both animal welfare and the conservation of species.”

But one leading industry critic has questioned the accuracy of the brand's claims.

Kangaroo advocate hits back at adidas kangaroo claims

Despite the company’s assurances, critics of the kangaroo industry maintain the welfare of kangaroos cannot be guaranteed because they are shot in the wild without supervision.

Filmmaker Mick McIntyre spent five years researching the industry for his 2017 documentary Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story and has since become a vocal opponent of kangaroo harvesting, travelling around the globe to advocate for the species protection. Speaking to Yahoo News Australia from Hong Kong, he questioned adidas’s argument that kangaroo shooters are "monitored".

“Adidas need to be reminded that this killing is done in the bush, in the middle of the night with no one watching. It’s done by lone operators who are operating without any supervision.” he said.

“That should be enough of a reason, but then we have the “collateral damage” of joeys. There’s incredible barbaric treatment of these babies — they’re killed not by shooting, but by blunt force trauma. This normally means picking it up by the tail and swinging it against their vehicle.”

Left - a joey in a pouch. Right - a close up of an Adidas shoe.
Kangaroo advocate Mick McIntyre has dismissed Adidas's claims that the welfare of kangaroos is monitored. Source: Getty

McIntyre cites evidence tabled during the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry that suggests thousands of animals shot in paddocks may not die instantly. While shooters aim to kill kangaroos with one bullet to the head, he believes this frequently does not occur.

“Why are the animals presented to the slaughter houses without heads on? There's only one reason for that. That's to disguise how the animals died,” he claimed.

“There is no monitoring of how the animals die. None. The first time monitoring is done is when the animal reaches a slaughterhouse without a head, which means that the animal has been killed by ways that we don't know.”

Industry claims kangaroo shooting minimises pain

This week animal advocates came together in nine countries protesting adidas's use of kangaroo leather, disrupting operations at several of the sportswear brand’s stores.

In the United States, activists regularly hold protests against what amounts to the largest land-based slaughter of wildlife in the world. But the industry has accused such opponents of spreading “false narratives”.

Kangaroo harvesting advocates say the practice is less harmful to the environment than cattle farming because kangaroos don’t produce large amounts of methane or damage the soil. The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) argues wild shooting is more humane than commercial farming practices.

"Commercial harvesters in Australia have a duty of care to ensure kangaroos are taken in a manner that minimises pain, suffering and distress," the KIAA claims.

"Kangaroos are free-ranging animals that are not confined, herded, transported or treated in any other way that may cause stress prior to harvest. Allowing kangaroos to live in their natural habitat rather than confined on farms is better for the animals and better for the natural ecosystem."

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