MELBOURNE – Australian wool will fall behind rival growing nations unless it produces more wool that is not tainted by the controversial process of mulesing, according to one of the industry’s leaders.
Josh Lamb, president of the Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors, said the volumes of non-mulesed (NM) and ceased mulesed (CM) wool had failed to grow significantly in the 12 years that AWEX National Wool Declaration rates had been reported.
In an interview with Sheep Central, Lamb said more progress had been made in increasing the amount of wool from sheep mulesed with pain relief but that many international buyers were also reluctant to accept this.
He said that there was growing public concern about mulesing, adding “the next generation of consumers in China are already asking questions about the provenance of products they buy be it wool or other”.
Australian sheep farmers have been widely criticised over the practice of mulesing which involves the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from the rear of sheep to prevent parasitic infection.
Mulesing is now unique to Australia, which produces about 75 percent of the apparel industry’s wool, having been banned in all major wool-exporting countries — including New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay and Argentina — except Australia.
However, as Lamb notes, wool from mulesed sheep now attracts a reduced price because of international demand for wool from sheep that have not had to endure the painful process.
The most recent AWEX National Wool Declaration rates, for 2019-20, show that only 10.2 percent of Australian wool was declared as non-mulesed and just 3.7 percent as ceased-mulesed (from farms which formerly mulesed their sheep but have not done so within the last year).
However, he noted that only 73.7 percent of wool produced in Australia was declared through the system and that this fell to just 56.4 percent for wool from NM and CM sheep and those mulesed with pain relief.
Calling for renewed cross industry efforts to review and if possible improve the system, he told Sheep Central: “This might be the last concerted effort we have to get it right indefinitely.
“Whatever the approach we as an industry must increase NWD completion rates, including improving accuracy, while still pursuing the increase of non-mulesed wool production,” he said.
Lamb said it was imperative that the Australian wool industry listened to what it’s customers wanted which was an industry based on best practice.
“The problem we have is Australia’s considered as a producer who is in denial about mulesing and welfare. Now we know that is not the case, but perception becomes reality,” he added.
“There’s evidence to suggest the post pandemic consumer is going to be more discerning than ever in regards to provenance, environmentally friendly and best practice goods.”
Original source: Ecotextile News 16 October 2020