Big W pulls controversial item from sale after furious response

Kangaroo skins are no longer being sold by the Woolworths Group retailer, after it received messages from unhappy customers.

Big W has pulled a controversial product made from Australian wildlife from its online stores following a customer outcry.

The retailer confirmed it had pulled a controversial range of kangaroo skin rugs from its website that offers products you'll find in stores as well as items from third party sellers. “In response to customer feedback and sentiment, we can confirm we have not sold any of this product and removed it from sale on Friday 26 April,” a Big W spokesperson said.

Prior to their removal, it had offered locally shot, tanned and manufactured extra large kangaroo skins for $122.95 and smaller versions for $73.95. The supplier has been contacted for comment.

Background: The front of a Big W store. Inset pictures: A conversation on Facebook with Big W about the skins and the skins being offered for sale.
Big W has pulled kangaroo skins from its marketplace of "trusted third party sellers" after a customer outcry. Source: Getty/Big W

The decision to remove the kangaroo skins followed an outcry that began a week ago. Registered wildlife rescuers were dismayed the retailer was selling the skins of animals they were working tirelessly to protect.

Courtney from Adelaide Hills Kangaroo Rescue was one of the many wildlife carers who worked to “pressure” Big W to remove the skins. “Visually seeing a kangaroo pelt is quite distressing for a lot of people,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Big W responded to her message on Facebook saying, “We’ve listened to our customers and community and made the decision”.

At 1.2 million animals a year, Australia’s commercial kangaroo harvest is the largest land based slaughter of wildlife in the world. Kangaroos are primarily shot to supply the domestic pet food market with meat, although some is also packaged for human consumption.

The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia maintains shooting keeps kangaroo populations at sustainable levels, and that the skins and meat which would otherwise be discarded is turned into valuable products.

Related: Adidas's claims about kangaroo leather football boots questioned

Hunters in boats surrounding a pod of dolphins in Japan.
Critics of Australia's kangaroo harvest have compared it to Japan's annual dolphin slaughter season. Source: Robert Gilhooly

Kangaroos are not farmed, and are instead shot in the wild. Critics have compared Australia's kangaroo harvest to Japan’s annual slaughter of dolphins in the cove of Taiji because it is accepted by the country's government, but controversial overseas. Russia and California have both banned the sale of kangaroo meat, and there is ongoing pressure on Europe to do the same.

In the United States, Nike, Puma and New Balance have all phased out kangaroo leather from their soccer boots. The only major shoe manufacturer to continue to use it is Adidas, but the material is not commonly used in its shoes.

“The share of kangaroo leather in our product material mix plays a minor role and is significantly below one percent because we’ve been able to substitute kangaroo leather with other innovative materials in many products,” Adidas told Yahoo News in January.

Courtney is also calling on Big W's parent company Woolworths Group to stop selling kangaroo meat in its stores.

“If Woolworths took the time to look into the trade and why its so inhumane they’d pull kangaroo products from their shelves,” she said.

“Kangaroos are incredibly complicated animals. They’re very social and they don’t do well by themselves. A joey will mourn the loss of its mother, and you will often see an orphan appearing very confused and scared.”

Yahoo has asked Woolworths Group if it plans to remove kangaroo products from its shelves. It has not yet responded.

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