Michelle Humphries, who is seeking election to the Australian Wool Innovation board on a ticket with Wally Merriman and David Webster, has rejected claims the trio aren't supporters of the use of pain relief for mulesing.
President of WoolProducers Australia, Ed Storey, said the three had stated in a letter to growers they had a "strong belief in the importance of maintaining the practice of mulesing for best-practice animal welfare and industry viability".
"WoolProducers is questioning this stance from the two incumbent directors (Messrs Merriman and Webster) given they are part of the board that has overseen AWI's approach to mulesing for over a decade which is now culminating in loss of markets for our wool from sheep that have been mulesed and premiums for non-mulesed wool," Mr Storey said.
"The lack of response from AWI on WoolProducers' call for support on mandatory pain relief for mulesing demonstrates the current board has no interest in providing an industry solution, coupled with complete arrogance and a lack of will to collaborate with other groups in the best interests of industry," Mr Store said.
Dr Humphries, founder of Livestock Breeding Services at Jerilderie, said a substantial proportion of the industry believed mulesing provided best-practice animal welfare by giving life-long protection against breech strike.
"These growers need assurance that strong communications will be made to the supply chain explaining the reasons behind our husbandry procedures and that mulesing will be available while there are sheep under their care which require it," she said.
"Wal Merriman, David Webster and I all support the use of pain relief with mulesing," she said.
"In fact Wal, at his Merryville stud, was one of the very first adopters of the use of Tri-Solfen at lamb marking.
"In my own lamb marking this year I used three products, Tri-Solfen, Buccalgesic and NumNuts, so that I could make a first-hand assessment of the products.
"Importantly, the letter to which WoolProducers refers, stresses our belief in the importance of continued research and 'novel ideas' to 'explore ways to make sheep less susceptible to flystrike and make the fly less able to harm sheep'.
"The newly structured and independent AWI Board Nomination Committee selected me as the preferred science skilled candidate.
"Mr Merriman and Mr Webster have followed this recommendation and so have also endorsed me as the preferred science candidate to replace Dr Meredith Sheil on the board.
"My opinion is that market forces will direct the industry and that it is the role of AWI to provide the tools so that Merino breeders can breed the type of sheep which they require.
"The aim of industry should be to breed highly productive Merinos which are also genetically resistant to breech strike.
"I am confident that with recent developments in genomics, this can be achieved by the matching of phenotypic data with gene combinations over a large set of data.
" The development of genomic breeding values for breech strike resistance through this data would provide a great tool for breeders no matter what breeding philosophy they follow.
"R&D in this area of science, together with other research such as in the genomics and biology of the blowfly, L. cuprina, will give a message to the supply chain that the Australian wool industry is working hard towards animal welfare solutions."
Mr Webster said it was not AWI's or its board's right "to force anything on growers and levy payers".
"What we are responsible for is presenting all possible best-practice options for their flock management available at present, growers can then apply their choice .
"The geographic and managerial environments have many variations across Australia, we are acutely aware there are very strong opinions held by growers which differ strongly according to the circumstances in which they manage their operations.
"As a means of safeguarding the health and hygiene of the Australian flock, AWI will continue to vigorously pursue projects in this area as they are presented," Mr Webster said.
"We are particularly conscious of the implications that would prevail should AWI take a position(s) that advantaged or disadvantaged one group(s) over others, this applies to all areas of AWI's operations, especially on-farm, not just animal health."