These Supercomfy, High-Performance Shoes Are Made With...Kangaroo Skin?!

Some folks are none too pleased.

Better get hopping, pal—Nike wants your skin. (Photo: Camillo BÃchelmeier/Getty Images)

Mar 21, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Nike's ubiquitous, high-budget ad campaigns tell us it really cares about athletic performance and comfort. But the company might have to make sacrifices in the areas of “versatile traction” and “soft touch” if a new activist campaign proves successful: The company is coming under fire for using kangaroo leather in some of its shoes.

The product description of the Nike Premier Men’s Soccer Cleat touts the “supple kangaroo and goat leather” that goes into them. The resulting high-performance traction, according to Nike, “helps you accelerate and make quick cuts on multiple surfaces.”

Unsurprisingly, this has incurred criticism from animal rights activists, and one family in Portland, Ore., wants to stop the production.

“Our whole family loves soccer,” the Fish family writes on its petition page. “We also love animals, which is why we find it painful and sad to imagine slaughtering even a single kangaroo for use in a shoe.” More than 200,000 supporters have signed so far. (No word yet from the goat lovers of the world.)

Kangaroo skin is known as one of the strongest lightweight leathers available, and Australia exports $33 million worth every year. Though the species isn’t endangered, the methods by which hunters gather the leather would make most people cringe: Australia’s code of practice dictates that if a slaughtered female has a baby in its pouch, the joey “must also be killed immediately, by decapitation or a heavy blow to the skull to destroy the brain, or shooting.”

To be sure, use of any animal product raises ethical questions. Eating beef is no more necessary for human sustenance than is the wearing of proper footwear during athletic pursuits, and an end to the use of kangaroo leather could simply mean more demand for cow leather (which seems unlikely to satisfy ethicists). Maybe cows just need better publicists, and maybe kangaroo lovers’ cute-itarianism will expand to compassion for all living things.

Soccer player David Beckham stopped wearing kangaroo leather boots in 2006 after an advocacy group sent him a graphic video of joeys being violently pulled from their mothers during Australia’s annual kangaroo “harvest.” Adidas agreed to cease using the leather in 2012.

Nike, on the other hand, has successfully revamped its sweatshop labor rep of the ’90s. Now it boasts innovations in mass product manufacturing, including an app providing designers a sustainability database of materials, such as cotton and hemp.

Kangaroo leather isn’t in it.