IN the battle against animal rights activists, Australian Wool Innovation’s (AWI) weapon of choice is a credit card.
AWI have collaborated with fashion empire, Westfield, to promote Australia’s wool history this week as part of Wool Week Australia, where campaigns have been rolled out at 30 stores with the main aim to sell wool.
“Every time a woollen garment is sold, animal rights activists lose,” AWI corporate communications manager Marius Cuming said.
“The best way to describe social licence is to show what it looks like when it is under pressure, and when it is on the line.
“When you hit the back of busses in capital cities, you know you’re in trouble.”
AWI’s stealth response to some of the damaging grenades being thrown at the wool industry by groups such as Animals Australia and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were publicised during the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association conference in Hamilton this week.
“Selling wool through Wool Week, not just in Australia, but wherever we have woolmark offices around the world is our chief defence – we beat them with a credit card,” Mr Cuming said.
“In 10 years we have gone from a horrible image in Times Square (New York) to a billboard in Horsham, Victoria.
“We are not going to sell anymore wool talking about mulesing – we have to start looking at the doughnut and stop looking at the hole.”
Animal rights groups have targeted the industry’s Achilles heel, publishing reports on drug use and animal abuse in shearing sheds and criticised the mulesing procedure.
Mr Cuming said while more than $50 million had been invested in combating flystrike over the past decade, AWI’s achievements had expanded throughout the supply chain.
He said advocates such as photographer Chantel McAlister, sports people Nat Fyfe and Hamish McLachlan, and celebrities including Naomi Watts and Isabel Lucas had supported various campaigns to improve wool’s promotion.
Education was another area of investment, with design competition Wool4School registering 16,000 students in Australia last year, as well National Merino Challenge and free industry educational kits for schools.
“The people that want to end this industry are already in the battle, and classroom, so we need to be there as well,” Mr Cuming said.
“Another area where we are strengthening our social licence is a new market which is going gangbusters for wool - active wear.”
He said last year Stella McCartney, the daughter of one of the world’s most famous vegans, Paul McCartney, collaborated with Adidas to produce a line of athletic wear from wool.
“Brands trust Australian farmers to look after their animals,” he said.
“Often we get criticism when we are attacked (by activists) and asked why we aren’t fighting for you.
“I use the mother-in-law theory – I don’t fight with her. You will never, ever, ever win a fight with your mother-in-law.”