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Oregon kangaroo bill likely dies, but Nike says it will not use the animal's leather anyway

 More than a million wild kangaroos are commercially "harvested" in Australia each year.
Suzuha Kozuki
More than a million wild kangaroos are commercially "harvested" in Australia each year.

A bill that would ban the sale of items made from kangaroo leather in Oregon likely won’t move forward this year in Salem.

But supporters of the proposal contained in Senate Bill 764 say they’ve achieved an even larger victory.

That’s because two major shoe companies, Nike and Puma, announced recently that they would no longer make shoes out of kangaroo leather.

The Beaverton-based Nike released a statement that said it would "stop making any product with kangaroo leather in 2023" and that products that currently use kangaroo leather would instead feature "a new Nike-only, proprietary synthetic" material.

Puma, based in Germany, said in a news release that it was "so convinced by the performance characteristics" of its synthetic substitute that it would "stop producing (soccer shoes) with kangaroo leather altogether this year."

The decision comes after years of pressure from animal rights groups to stop the practice, which was made popular by major soccer stars in the 1970’s.

Scott Beckstead is director of campaigns for Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.

“I think that these shoe companies could read the writing on the wall," he said. "I think that they knew that the synthetic materials that they were moving to represented a better choice, both in terms of the quality of the materials itself, as well as public opinion.”

The Oregon bill was introduced in January but never received a hearing. Press coverage of the measure ranged far and wide, including interviews with some Oregon journalists on Australian radio. Kangaroos are not an endangered species and more than a million are legally hunted each year in that country.

Nike and Puma represent a significant portion of the worldwide market for soccer gear, though Beckstead notes that another industry heavyweight, Adidas, has not followed suit.

Still, Beckstead said the apparent failure of the bill in the Oregon legislature is not a significant setback.

"To a large extent, the point has been made," said Beckstead. "And I think that is reflected in the announcement by these two companies."

Copyright 2023 KLCC. To see more, visit KLCC.

Chris M Lehman