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European wool processor calls for action on mulesing

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One of the world’s largest wool processors is calling for leadership from the industry to reduce the practice of mulesing. London-based director Laurence Modiano has previously campaigned against the practice of mulesing in the wool industry. Mr Modiano said there was significant demand for non-mulesed wool, and he wanted to see pain-relief become mandatory.

“The demand we in Europe have been receiving for merino wool from non-mulesed sheep has increased by 50 per cent in the past six months,” he said. “Much of it is destined for the USA, home to many of the world’s largest brands, much of it is for Europe. Mulesing is an issue that isn’t going away. In fact it’s becoming more and more important.”

Mr Modiano’s views are backed up by the Australian Wool Exchange, which reported an increase in interest from buyers in the National Wool Declaration which showed the provenance of wool. Despite only half the industry submitting the voluntary declarations, AWEX chief executive Mark Grave said there was no need to make the declaration compulsory.

“No, I think the voluntary system works and it works well. In the last 18 months to two years, we’ve had an increase [in interest] from buyers, not just for themselves but for their downstream customers … so we’re really starting to see some interaction between the buyers and the farm gate.”

But according to Mr Modiano the wool industry is losing business to other substitute fibres. “The mulesing issue has been the millstone around the wool industry’s neck for over a decade,” he said. “It is greatly hampering the progress merino wool needs to make if it is to be viable to all those who depend on it. I mean it’s a really beautiful and amazing fibre, nothing compares to it.

“There are huge brands in Europe and America that are desperate to have it in their products, but are totally put off by its association with perceived animal cruelty. And I do believe it is the great unspoken factor in lacklustre performance of merino prices for superfine wool.”

Mr Modiano has no financial interest in pain relief products. He would like to see the practice become mandatory.

“I can’t tell farmers to stop mulesing. I know very well the reasons why they have to do it, but if they have to there is no excuse for not using pain relief,” he said. “It’s cheap and easy to apply and should be used for all on-farm surgery regardless of the age of the animal.

“I also believe that making it mandatory will immediately send out a message to the world that Australia is treating its sheep humanely.”

But WOOL growers have hit back at this call for pain relief at mulesing to be made compulsory. Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall said the wool industry was actively looking for an alternative, but didn’t need legislative change. She said many growers already used pain relief on their sheep at mulesing and some had ceased mulesing altogether. She said the uptake of pain relief at mulesing was already “impressive”, with 60-70 per cent of Merino lambs receiving the treatment. This peak growers body in Australia says it supports using pain relief at mulesing and the best way to encourage farmers to administer pain relief is for processors to pay pre¬miums for non-mulesed wool or for wool from sheep given pain relief at mulesing.

“From the wool industry’s perspective, since 2005, $28 million has been spent on breech flystrike prevention, and alternatives are being worked on. What wool producers won’t support is the setting of another deadline or the phasing out of mulesing until a universally-accepted method is found. Animal welfare is at the forefront of the vast majority of Australian woolgrowers … there has been significant uptake of voluntary usage of pain relief, with 60-70 per cent of merino lambs that are being mulesed administered with pain relief,” she said

Source: ABC Rural


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