Becks gives kangaroo skin the boot

By Tom Anderson

LONDON - David Beckham had trouble with his metatarsals at the last World Cup. But the England football captain is determined not to have any problems with campaigners for marsupial rights at this year's tournament in Germany.

Four years after signing a multimillion-dollar deal with adidas to wear Predator football boots, the biggest star in the global game has ditched the model after learning of the gruesome process that now 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-skin 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 joeys were pulled from their mother's pouch and beaten to death during the annual kangaroo "harvest", worth more than £13 million ($33 million) 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 joey 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 - with ridges on top allowing more ball control.

The only controversy when it was launched was over the price - at £80 a pair, Predators were the most expensive boot around. Johnston, an Australian, has since cut his ties with adidas. When it emerged that adidas had switched to kangaroo skin three years ago, 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 Predators made of synthetic materials.

- INDEPENDENT

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