Kan­ga­roo ban may bounce back

A tem­po­rary deal al­low­ing im­ports made of the an­i­mals’ skin is set to ex­pire.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - ME­LANIE MA­SON me­lanie.ma­son@la­times.com Twit­ter: @mel­ma­son

SACRA­MENTO — Kan­ga­roos, the iconic mar­su­pial from Down Un­der, are prized by soc­cer play­ers — not for their cud­dli­ness, but for their skin. Some of the most cov­eted cleats and gloves are made with kan­ga­roo leather.

But the avail­abil­ity of those prod­ucts in Cal­i­for­nia could be in doubt if a decades-old state ban on kan­ga­roo prod­ucts goes back into ef­fect.

In an ef­fort to pro­tect Australia’s em­blem­atic an­i­mal, Cal­i­for­nia banned the im­port of kan­ga­roo parts in 1971. In 2007, the state put a mora­to­rium on the ban, al­low­ing the sale of kan­ga­roo-skin prod­ucts. The mora­to­rium is set to ex­pire at the end of this year.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is not happy about that; it wants an end to the ban al­to­gether.

Aus­tralian of­fi­cials say the ban doesn’t dis­tin­guish among the dif­fer­ent types of kan­ga­roo. Some are pro­tected, oth­ers are not — and the num­bers of cer­tain types are so large that the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment an­nu­ally culls them.

“Over the last decade, [Cal­i­for­nia and Australia] have co­op­er­ated to en­sure non-en­dan­gered kan­ga­roo prod­ucts are im­ported into Cal­i­for­nia and sold by Cal­i­for­nian busi­nesses in a man­ner con­sis­tent with science-based wildlife man­age­ment prac­tices de­signed to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity of kan­ga­roo pop­u­la­tions — cur­rently num­ber­ing over 50 mil­lion for the 4 species in ques­tion,” Kim Bea­z­ley, Aus­tralian am­bas­sador to the U.S., said in a state­ment.

“The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment wishes to grow our strong eco­nomic ties by re­mov­ing un­nec­es­sary trade bar­ri­ers that are not grounded on science. A tem­po­rary so­lu­tion has been in place for years and it is now time to adopt a per­ma­nent res­o­lu­tion,” Bea­z­ley said.

No bill has been filed in the Leg­is­la­ture to ex­tend Cal­i­for­nia’s prohibition, and an­i­mal-rights ad­vo­cates are alarmed. They say the com­mer­cial trade of kan­ga­roo prod­ucts is cruel, and in­creased de­mand could harm the types of kan­ga­roo that re­main en­dan­gered.

They’re par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about how the ban could be al­tered or un­done.

An in­dus­try group, the Kan­ga­roo In­dus­try Assn. of Australia, hired a lob­by­ist last month, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings with the Cal­i­for­nia sec­re­tary of state. The dead­line for in­tro­duc­ing pol­icy bills this year passed soon af­ter, so the law could now be changed only out­side of the stan­dard process.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment have dis­cussed the ban with law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Se­nate leader Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les), who met with Bea­z­ley in Los An­ge­les last month. But rep­re­sen­ta­tives for De León and the As­sem­bly speaker said that no change to the ban is in the works.

“The pro tem’s of­fice is not plan­ning any new pol­icy re­gard­ing the sale of kan­ga­roo prod­ucts in Cal­i­for­nia,” said Claire Con­lon, a spokes­woman for De León.

John Casey, spokesman for As­sem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), said that “at­tempt­ing to lift the ban on im­port­ing kan­ga­roo prod­ucts in Cal­i­for­nia is noth­ing the As­sem­bly is con­sid­er­ing at this time.”

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said he was “not aware of any ef­forts out of our of­fice” to change the ban.

Jen­nifer Fear­ing, a lob­by­ist for the Hu­mane So­ci­ety, said the is­sue should be aired in public.

“Cal­i­for­nia pol­i­cy­mak­ers should con­sider not only the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment’s and kan­ga­roo in­dus­try’s as­ser­tions of­fered dur­ing pri­vate meet­ings, but also hear from other ex­perts and the public,” she said in an email.

“A bill in­tro­duced on time dur­ing our leg­isla­tive process al­lows for such dis­cus­sion,” she said. “The in­dus­try has cho­sen a path now where at best, only a trun­cated dis­cus­sion is pos­si­ble — pre­sum­ably be­cause they think they won’t get what they want if the is­sue is sub­ject to a full public air­ing.”

Wil­liam West AFP/Getty Images

IN 2007, Cal­i­for­nia put a mora­to­rium on its ban pro­hibit­ing the sale of kan­ga­roo-skin prod­ucts. Aus­tralian of­fi­cials would like to see the ban abol­ished.

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