Australia wool industry will not bow to boycotts

Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:37pm EST
 
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By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's $2.2 billion wool industry rejected calls on Thursday to immediately stop a "barbaric" practice of cutting away loose skin from sheep to stop maggots, saying there was no workable alternative.

European and U.S. fashion houses including German-based C&A and Hugo Boss, sporting goods firm Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch have barred Australian wool over a practice called mulesing, in which farmers remove loose skin from near the anus of lambs.

Wool growers had agreed to phase out mulesing by 2010, but at a yearly meeting on Wednesday of the industry's research and marketing body, Australian Wool Innovation, or AWI, producers voted for a board largely opposed to the deadline.

"One can't ask for the impossible, not even Marks and Spencer. The facts are that there's no viable alternative, and that's that," said new board member Laurence Modiano, referring to the major British retail chain.

Animal rights activists want mulesing stopped immediately and claim the treatment, meant to prevent maggot infestation, is inhumane. They have successfully called for international boycotts of Australian wool.

Earlier this year the German newspaper Bild called the practice a "barbaric tradition" in Australian farming.

"It's going to invigorate animal rights activists," said Jason Baker, an activist at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, referring to the wool producers' decision. "Retailers can go to any other country in the world and get unmulesed wool."

Timberland, Perry Ellis International and Victoria's Secret of the United States have already introduced bans on Australian wool while in Sweden, police and military have stopped using it in uniforms.   Continued...

 
<p>Australian wool grower Alix Turner opens up the fleece of one of his Merino sheep on his property near Goulburn, 150 kilometres (93 miles) southwest of Sydney May 12, 2006. REUTERS/Will Burgess</p>