Four years after signing a multi-million pound deal with adidas to wear Predator football boots made of kangaroo skin, the biggest star in the global game has ditched the model after learning of the gruesome process that goes into making his preferred footwear. Beckham, whose trademark dipping and swerving shots at goal were attributed to the control he could put on the ball with the soft kangaroo boots, is switching to models made from synthetic fabrics.
He made the decision after being sent a graphic video by animal rights groups, which showed how baby kangaroos were pulled from their mother's pouch and beaten to death during the annual kangaroo "harvest", worth more than £13m a year to Australia. The film showed a mother kangaroo standing stock-still, ears pricked up for sounds of danger, as a four-wheel drive vehicle pulled up in the Outback, blinding the marsupial with searchlights.
A hired marksman then shoots the mother kangaroo before approaching the body and cutting a baby from the pouch. The baby kangaroo is beaten with a blunt instrument. Its mother is hung from a hook on the back of the truck before being taken for skinning. The skin is then taken to adidas factories in the developing world where it is turned into football boots, which are sold to thousands of fans in Britain for £100 a pair.
The adidas Predator became the best-known football boot in the world when it was invented in 1993 by former Liverpool midfielder Craig Johnston. The original model used synthetic products, not animal skins. It was an all-rubber boot - the first of its kind. The rubber ridges on the top of the boot enabled its wearer to put greater swerve and curl when he struck the ball.
The only controversy when it was launched was over the price - at £80 a pair, Predators were the most expensive boot around. Mr Johnston, an Australian, has since cut his ties with adidas. When it emerged that adidas had switched to kangaroo skin three years ago, Mr Johnston said he felt the firm had made the wrong decision.
Justin Kerswell, a campaigner at animal rights group Viva!, said: "There is no way you can justify butchering millions of kangaroos to turn them into sports shoes. It doesn't matter whether the kangaroo industry, adidas and the Australian government tell us that every kangaroo dies painlessly, we know that is not true. "
Beckham will continue to wear adidas Predators, but will use synthetic materials. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauded the footballer. A spokesman said: "It's wonderful to see a celebrity turning his back on leather and using synthetics."
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