Global clothing brands have signalled the end of their support for mulesed wool adding their names to an open letter addressed to the Australian sheep and wool industry.
But peak wool bodies have reacted, saying the industry must do what is right by woolgrowers, and support them and their on-farm decisions.
At last week's Wool Connect online conference global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS called for an end to the mulesing practice within the Australian wool industry, phasing it out by 2030.
Rebecca Picallo Gil, wool campaigner for FOUR PAWS, addressed the online audience by presenting an open Brand Letter of Intent signed by over 30 global fashion brands.
Those brands included Adidas, H&M Group, Bestseller, VF Corporation, Mammut, Patagonia, and Otto Group.
The brands stated they do not want mulesed wool and they are calling on the Australian wool industry to enable the transition away from mulesing and towards pain-free alternatives
Ms Picallo Gil said the FOUR PAWS 'Brand Letter of Intent' is a strong signal to the Australian wool industry and global wool supply chains that mulesing must become a thing of the past.
"It was invented over 100 years ago, with good intentions, there is no doubt about that," she said.
"But new research shows wool producers can breed plain-bodied sheep without the wrinkle that causes issues, which attract flies.
"And while mandatory and adequate pain relief pre and post mulesing is an important interim solution, it is not a long- term solution."
Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), in their latest paper, Wool Strategy 2030, also mentioned the end to mulesing by 2030.
The paper stated the goal for woolgrowers to have the "confidence and tools to manage flystrike without mulesing" by 2030.
Ms Picallo Gil said this was an important step and Australia's wool industry recognises that time is running out for mulesing.
"What must be developed next is a clear action plan for wool growers and textile brands to phase-out mulesing," she said.
AWI chairman Jock Laurie said there has been a gradual trend from producers heading towards non-mulesed sheep within the industry and expects that will continue to build.
And he said AWI will provide tools and information available to help growers transition to a non-mulesed flock, if that is their chosen path.
"A recent survey showed there is a number of growers looking to go non-mulesed, but we know that it will be a gradual shift," Mr Laurie said.
"AWI has invested heavily in providing options and tools for growers to be able to deal with their decisions around mulesing."
But he said the demand is still there for mulesed wool.
"There is demand out there for non-mulesed wool, but there is also very strong demand out there for mulesed wool back into the Chinese market," Mr Laurie said.
"So the people that want to continue to mules in Australia, then the market signal is there most certainly is demand there."
But Australian Wool Growers Association chairman Robert McBride slammed the boycott saying the attack on critical sheep surgeries is an attack on the livelihood of Australian farmers.
"Sheep welfare is the number one priority for all wool growers - more than 85 per cent of the industry has adopted one of four available types of pain relief during this necessary 30 second procedure," Mr McBride said.
"Without this necessary surgery, sheep are at risk of a prolonged and agonising death from flystrike.
"Unfortunately, animal rights groups don't like to acknowledge these tremendous advances and improvements in welfare.
"It is an inconvenient truth that they choose to ignore. The reason for this is simple, it isn't just about a single sheep surgery, their intention is to end the farming of all animals and convert the world to a vegan lifestyle."
He said their latest tactic is to coerce global retailers into publicly boycotting Australian wool with greenwashing and scare campaigns instead of science and fact.
"Worse, they've been able to do so in a complete vacuum," Mr McBride said.
"Government and industry simply cannot allow this to happen. We must collectively take action, defend our industry and protect the livelihoods of Australian farmers."
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