The wool industry has launched a campaign to convince consumers that wool is a sustainable product, and the industry is accountable.
- The wool industry launches new sustainability campaign
- Animal welfare groups say not enough is being done
- The WoolProducers president has criticised animal welfare groups
The industry has been under scrutiny from animal welfare groups over some animal husbandry practices, and there is a growing trend by consumers to know more about where products came from and the sustainability of the industries such as wool.
But woolgrower and industry leader Edward Storey is angry.
“I will not be lectured on sustainability by people who live in cities.”
The Yass woolgrower and president of WoolProducers has dealt with complaints about animal welfare practices from city-based animal welfare groups for years.
Add to that the growing concern in the community about the sustainability of livestock production due to carbon emissions, land clearing and loss of biodiversity and his frustration is not surprising.
WoolProducers is the peak national policy and advocacy group for woolgrowers.
Mr Storey said he was proud to be a woolgrower, and he believed it was time for groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Voiceless, Animals Australia and 4 Paws held to account for chasing donations.
He attacked them for criticising farmers while living unsustainable lifestyles in the city.
“They chopped all the trees down to build their houses, get all the sand and gravel to make their cement out in regional Australia and then lecture us on sustainability.”
He thinks that Australians do trust farmers, and he is unashamedly proud of his own record.
“I barely use any sprays. I’ve got sheep who graze the land, and it regenerates. I’ve got an incredible range of biodiversity.
“When I produce wool, my animal lives. You get five or six fleeces out of an ewe on average. It has a lamb most years, it’s an incredibly bio-diverse system.”
He said woolgrowers were adding to the sustainability of regional economies as well.
“I’m providing regional employment. My shearers got above award wages this year, and I’m very proud to produce something the world wants.”
Trust in Australian wool campaign
The wool industry has launched a global campaign to explain to customers, including those in the wool supply chain, that the industry is accountable.
The Trust in Australian Wool document, translated for Chinese and Indian readers, details all the elements of the industry’s accountability systems.
This includes vendor declaration forms, surveillance in yards and abattoirs, disease management in the paddock, a code of practice for growers and the transport sector, right through to wool testing labs and biosecurity systems to prevent diseases coming into Australia.
And the industry is also working on a new holistic sustainability framework, due to be released in April, that looks at economic, environmental and climate impacts.
Mulesing still a big issue
But Georgie Dolphin from the Humane Society is not convinced.
She said woolgrowers needed to do more to earn the trust of consumers.
The focus for animal welfare groups is still on mulesing, a practice that is still widely used in the wool industry.
Farmers remove the breech from a lamb to reduce the risk of flystrike and maggot infestation.
The industry promised to phase the practice out by 2010, but that has not happened, and the Humane Society wants it to end.
What has changed is the rapid adoption of pain relief when mulesing is done, and the development of sheep breeds with fewer folds in their skin that don’t need mulesing.
Ms Dolphin said that was not enough.
“There’s somewhere between 13 to 20 million lambs mulesed across Australia every year, and a lot of them don’t get pain relief.”
Important first step
Russell Bush, a woolgrower with 30 years’ experience, and an Associate Professor in Livestock Production at the University of Sydney, teaches young people about farming, and he said he thought the industry was on the right path.
“It’s getting that message across and being able to back it up with real-life examples and maintaining that credibility is going to be important.”