Blog: Leonie BarrieMulesing madness

Leonie Barrie | 10 June 2008

Although it has been rumbling on for around a decade, the campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for a boycott on the use of wool from mulesed sheep has really accelerated in the last year.

And with fashion firms such as Adidas, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Timberland, Hennes & Mauritz, Perry Ellis and Victoria's Secret all pledging to stop incorporating such wool in their garments, the Australian wool industry is hurting.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper has launched a campaign to counteract PETA's claims, saying farmers are already struggling against the worst drought in a century.

And auctioneer the Australian Wool Exchange has launched a new scheme that requires growers to declare whether or not their wool is from sheep that have been mulesed.

But it may well be that in the end economics finally accelerates the called-for change. Some 11.5% of Australian wool growers have already ceased mulesing, and are now finding their wool commands a premium estimated at between 7% and 10%. Put simply, there is no longer a demand for mulesed wool.

However, it’s all very well calling for an end to the practise without an alternative being agreed. Without mulesing, sheep die an agonising death – surely not the message PETA really wants to convey; with it, farmers are criticised for cruelty.

As far as I understand it, alternative methods for controlling fly strike don’t meet with PETA’s approval either, and breeding options that would lead to sheep without the problematic rolls of flesh are still some way off. The Australian industry has agreed to phase out mulesing completely by 2010, but in the meantime is stuck between a rock and a hard place as PETA insists the boycott stays and more and more business slips away.

AUSTRALIA: Wool industry moves to tackle boycotts


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