Is the bill a hop too far?
Starting in 1971, California has been the only U.S. state to ban sales or imports of products made from kangaroos. The animals are killed in their native Australia and a few other nearby island nations, to be used for sports equipment including soccer cleats and baseball mitts.
California dropped the ban from 2007 to 2015, after lobbying from the Australian government and athletic apparel companies like Adidas. Despite now being legal, David Beckham of the L.A. Galaxy — by far the state’s most famous soccer player during those years — nonetheless stopped wearing footwear made from kangaroo skin following public pressure. The state’s ban resumed again in 2016.
What the bill does
The Kangaroo Protection Act would extend that ban to the other 49 states, discontinuing the importation or sale of kangaroo parts nationwide.
It was introduced on February 8 as H.R. 917, by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA24).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would cease a repulsive and unnecessary practice, protecting a beloved species in the process.
“Commercial shooters kill 2 million kangaroos a year in Australia to profit off the trade of their skins. Many kangaroos survived the recent wildfires only to be killed to make shoes,” Rep. Carbajal wrote in a Facebook post. “California has already banned this inhumane practice and I introduced the [bill] to prohibit and penalize this inhumane practice in the U.S.”
“California banned the trade in kangaroo parts for good reason,” Rep. Carbajal and two of the state’s other U.S. House representatives wrote in a 2020 letter to the state’s attorney general. “Our citizens do not want kangaroos killed by the million for athletic shoes and other products, especially given the availability of alternative fabrics already widely in use and of equivalent or superior functionality.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that kangaroos are widespread in Australia, in no danger of becoming endangered, and that sales of products made from the animal are good for the economy — in Australia and the U.S. alike.
“Anyone who lives with kangaroos knows they are super abundant. There are a great deal more than there used to be,” Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia executive director John Kelly told The Guardian. “Controlling kangaroo numbers is vital if they’re to stay on the land. Unless they’re controlled they cause an enormous amount of damage. The kangaroo harvest is environmentally and agriculturally essential.”
“Kangaroos are like rabbits in Australia. They’re not protected at all, and it’s actually encouraged to kill them [to cull their population and prevent environmental or agricultural damage],” Australian native and California resident Kalee StClair told the New York Times in a 2007 article. “I guess they are really cute. And California is a sucker for a cute animal. Look at how people dress their dogs here.”
Odds of passage
The legislation was introduced several times in the 1980s and 1990s by former Rep. Robert Mrazek (D-NY3), though it doesn’t appear to have been introduced again until now.
- The 1983 version attracted 52 bipartisan cosponsors, 45 Democrats and seven Republicans.
- The 1985 version attracted 97 bipartisan cosponsors, 82 Democrats and 15 Republicans.
- The 1987 version attracted 121 bipartisan cosponsors, 100 Democrats and 21 Republicans.
- The 1989 version attracted 104 bipartisan cosponsors, 91 Democrats and 13 Republicans.
- The 1991 version attracted 53 bipartisan cosponsors, 47 Democrats and six Republicans
None of those five versions received a vote in the since-disbanded House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, despite being controlled by Democrats all five times.
The current bill has attracted seven bipartisan cosponsors: five Democrats and two Republicans. (It’s unclear why so many fewer cosponsors have signed on, compared to decades ago.) It awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.