Kangaroo Law in California: BILL NO SB 880, legalisation of kangaroo products

Sustainability PartyLatest news: the bill to allow kangaroo products into California has been passed in the state’s Senate. It must still be passed in the lower house and signed off by the governator.

This information is from the official report by the California senate. The Sustainability Party of Australia supports the proposed changes to the law, which would remove the ban on the sale of kangaroo products in California. Kangaroo meat is better for you than beef because it contains almost no fat. It also tastes better. Kangaroos do not emit methane - a powerful greenhouse gas. Cows do. They do not compact and erode the fragile Australian soil with hard hooves. Cows do. Cows also rip grass out by the roots and destroy fragile riparian ecosystems. Harming the Australian kangaroo industry reinforces the cattle and sheep industry, which simply isn't suited to our environment. Sustainable agriculture in Australia will require a move away from European farming practices. Contrary to claims by animal liberation groups, kangaroos are not endangered. The export of sustainably harvested kangaroo meat is saving bears, whales and seals from being eaten. Kangaroo meat accounts for almost one half of our exports to Russia, where the hungry locals cannot get enough of the cheap, high quality meat. The recent decline in numbers is due to a major drought in Australia, not overharvesting.
| Senator Darrell Steinberg, Chair
| 2007-2008 Regular Session

BILL NO: SB 880 HEARING DATE: May 8, 2007
VERSION: As Introduced CONSULTANT: Bill Craven

Section 653o of the Penal Code prohibits the importation, possession with intent to sell, and the sale in California of products made from several species, including polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf, zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, feral horse, dolphin, porpoise, Spanish lynx, or elephant. Existing law allows the sale of crocodile and alligator parts or products until January 1, 2010. Violations of this section are a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1000-$5000 or 6 months in jail.

This bill would remove the criminal penalty for the importation, possession with intent to sell, and the sale of kangaroo products made from those species of kangaroo that are not listed under the federal endangered species act or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The supporters make the following arguments:

  • According to the author and many supporters, the current criminal code prohibition against selling products made from kangaroo leather should be repealed in order to make these products legally available in California. The author believes that the bill would allow California to continue to prohibit the sale of products made from species of kangaroos that are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal endangered species act.
  • The author, joined by several supporters, also contends that the current law has caused many retailers not to sell kangaroo products and that other retailers are exposing themselves to liability because they do not fully understand the California law. The author and many business sector supporters argue that internet sales of kangaroo products to California purchasers makes the current law unfair and unnecessary. The author adds that California law enforcement officers use a boot made from kangaroo. (Staff note: The possession of kangaroo products is not prohibited.)
  • Many supporters argue that the current prohibition is intended to apply only to endangered species. The California Retailers Association identified what it contends is an ambiguity in the present statute in that the entire genus of kangaroos is included in the existing law and not just those species that are endangered.
  • They also argue that an ongoing lawsuit against retailers under the state's unfair business practices statute created unnecessary litigation expenses to defend against the lawsuit since the trial and appellate courts ruled in favor of the defendants. (Staff note: This assertion is premature since the case is still pending before the California Supreme Court and plaintiffs in that case have informed staff that oral arguments are scheduled for June.)
  • Other supporters from the sports sector point out that retailers are losing sales to millions of potential soccer players since kangaroo skin reportedly makes for superior soccer shoes.

The opposition arguments fall into the following categories:

  • The purpose of the California law is not only to protect endangered species, but also to protect species that society determines should not be hunted for specific reasons. California has had its current policy in effect for approximately 35 years, and the supporters see no reason to backslide by legitimizing what they consider inhumane practices. Wildlife protection laws sometimes prohibit practices considered abhorrent by society. Some opponents point to the prohibition of the importation of seal products from Canada. Seals are not endangered, but the Marine Mammal Protection Act factored in the cruelty involved in their killing as part of the prohibition. Related provisions prohibit the importation of marine mammals which were pregnant when taken, nursing or less than 8 months old at the time of taking, or taken inhumanely.
  • The opposition does not agree that the present statute is ambiguous. Many opponents believe that the entire genus of kangaroo needs to be included in order to protect the species that are endangered or threatened or closely resemble those listed species. They add that the continued prohibition on the sale of kangaroo skins and meat is the only way to ensure that protected species and species that are not hunted in certain jurisdictions will not have their survival put in jeopardy and their skins accidentally sold in California. One example, from United Animal Nations, is that in Queensland, the Western Gray Kangaroo is not allowed to be killed, but it can be mistaken for the Eastern Grey, which is allowed to be hunted
  • Kangaroos are hunted in the wild, and are not domestic species. Their numbers are in decline in their natural habitat, a condition caused in part by a long-term drought in Australia. Several opposition letters cited a finding by the Department of Environment and Heritage to the effect that kangaroo populations are the lowest they have been in a decade and less than half of what they were in 2001. Another report provided by the opposition states that because of the increased demand for kangaroo meat, that kangaroos are at their lowest level since monitoring began 28 years ago. Since kangaroos are hunted at night, it is not always possible to distinguish between the legal species to hunt and those that are protected..
  • Kangaroo hunting is barbaric toward the young (called "joeys") who are decapitated or killed with a blow to the head if their mother is killed by a hunter. This practice is a regulatory requirement in Australia.
  • Legalizing kangaroo imports in California will create additional market pressure that will lead to further declines in the kangaroo population in Australia and an increase in exports not only of skins, but of kangaroo meat.

The numbers of supporters and opponents to this bill makes it apparent that sentiments on both sides run strong.

This is the third consecutive session that this bill has been before the Legislature. In 2005, AB 734 (Firebaugh) failed passage in this Committee after the author refused to accept amendments that would have required the Director of Fish and Game to certify that specified improvements in hunting practices in Australia were adopted. In 2006, AB 734, which is identical to this measure, failed in this Committee.

The Ongoing Litigation . The California Supreme Court has accepted for oral argument a case brought by an animal protection group against a retailer who sold kangaroo products purchased from the Adidas corporation. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants and that decision was upheld on appeal. Both decisions held that the state criminal provision that would be amended by SB 880 was pre-empted by the federal endangered species act.

On appeal the appellants, joined by the Attorney General, are arguing that a savings clause in the federal endangered species act applies to state laws and provides that state laws may be more restrictive than federal laws and any such state laws may remain in effect.

The practical effect of the litigation could be that the author and supporters may obtain through the pending litigation what they seek to obtain through this legislation.


  • 5.11 Tactical
  • Adidas America
  • Australian Government
  • Australian Minister for the Environment and Water Resources>
  • California Black Chamber of Commerce
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce>
  • California Retailers Association
  • CD Chivas USA
  • Chick's Sporting Goods
  • Commission of Major League Soccer
  • Congress of California Seniors
  • Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Major League Soccer
  • National Soccer Coaches Association of America
  • National Sporting Goods Association
  • Soccer City
  • Soccer Pro
  • Sport Chalet
  • Sporting Goods Manufactures Association
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • Animal Place
  • Animal Protection Institute
  • Animal Switchboard
  • Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
  • California Federation for Animal Legislation
  • Farm Sanctuary
  • Last Chance for Animals
  • League of Humane Voters-California Chapter
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • United Animal Nations
  • Viva
  • 45 Individuals

join discussion