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US brands alarmed about mulesing backdown

US brands alarmed about mulesing backdown article image
US clothing retailers have banded together to pressure the Australian wool industry on the issue of mulesing. Mulesing, the practice of surgically removing parts of merino lambs' rears to prevent flystrike, caused controversy when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) began demonstrating against the practice. Following PETA's campaign in 2005, Australian marketing and research body Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) promised to replace mulesing with a commercially viable alternative by the end of 2010. The AWI has indicated that it is unlikely to meet this deadline, sparking concerns from US clothing brands. "We are concerned about what future action PETA may decide to launch if the issue remains unresolved," said Erik Autor, the vice-president and international trade counsel of the US National Retail Federation. The retailers have written to Australian Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke and Minister for Trade Simon Crean on the issue, as the industry has been slow to breed sheep that would preclude the need for mulesing. The letter included the following: "Our companies cannot afford to put our credibility and brands at risk over disagreements regarding the propriety and effectiveness of particular animal-husbandry techniques, particularly at a time when apparel made from competing fabrics is on the rise in the US market." AWI chairman Wal Merriman said that without mulesing, 3.5 million sheep are at direct risk of a slow and painful death via flystrike. He stated the AWI did not want to be held ransom by animal activists and that finding a genetic solution in sheep was progressing. He added: "Many woolgrowers have ceased or are phasing out surgical mulesing, while many are using pain relief options and declaring this at sale."

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