6 September 2021 - At this week's Wool Connect Conference (7-9 September), global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS will once again call for an end to mulesing in the wool industry. Presenting an open letter signed so far by over 30 global fashion brands, including Adidas, Patagonia and H&M, FOUR PAWS will address the Australian sheep wool industry, the world's largest producer of merino wool. The goal is a concrete action plan to eliminate mulesing by 2030.
Global clothing brands have signalled the end of their support for mulesed wool, adding their names to an open letter addressed to the Australian sheep wool industry calling for a clear plan to end mulesing by 2030.
Over 30 major brands including Adidas, H&M Group, Bestseller, VF Corporation, Mammut, Patagonia, and Otto Group have publicly signed the FOUR PAWS 'Brand Letter of Intent', stating they do not want mulesed wool and they call on the Australian wool industry to enable the transition away from mulesing and towards pain-free alternatives.
“The FOUR PAWS 'Brand Letter of Intent' is another strong signal to the Australian wool industry and global wool supply chains that mulesing must become a thing of the past."
Rebecca Picallo Gil, FOUR PAWS Wool Campaigner
Rebecca Picallo Gil is slotted to speak to the demands of brands in the open letter when presenting at the Wool Connect Conference on 8 September.
Industry goals not enough, calls for action plan to end mulesing
Industry body and fellow speaker at Wool Connect Conference, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), mentioned an end to mulesing by 2030 in their newest paper Wool Strategy 2030, setting their own goal for wool growers to have the “confidence and tools to manage flystrike without mulesing” by 2030.
“This was an important step showing that the wool industry in Australia recognises that time is running out for mulesing. What must be developed next is a clear action plan for wool growers and textile brands to phase-out mulesing.
"That is why we want to use the momentum of this 'Brand Letter of Intent' to confirm to AWI that the brands are ready, and need their counterparts in Australia to develop an action plan to fulfill the common goal to end mulesing by 2030.”
Rebecca Picallo Gil, FOUR PAWS Wool Campaigner
Textiles brands and shoppers agree mulesing is cruel and outdated
New research commissioned by FOUR PAWS of almost 14,000 participants across twelve countries found that nearly two thirds of adults (64%) are aware of animal cruelty in the fashion industry and since COVID-19, almost another third (31%) are now either seeking products with high animal welfare credentials or avoiding animal-based products all together.
These evolving shopper preferences are being not only noticed by brands, but brands are changing their own supply chains in response.
“icebreaker was founded on ensuring respect for our fibre all the way through the value chain, from sheep to shirt. We were one of the first brands to exclusively use wool from non-mulesed sheep. It’s important to the consumer, but even more, it’s important for the animal. Consumers are more conscious than ever, and we feel it is our responsibility to drive awareness and demand for ethically-sourced product.”
Meredith Dawson Lawry, Global Materials & Sustainability Manager for icebreaker.
Proven solution to mulesing and flystrike
The growing anti-mulesing movement within global textiles and shopper trends demonstrates the demand for non-mulesed wool exists, and may increase in the coming years. Significantly, more than 3,000 Australian wool growers are already mulesing-free.
A 2020 economic report demonstrated that it is possible to transition away from mulesing within 2-5 years. The economic report, developed by BG Economics and commissioned by FOUR PAWS and Humane Society International (HSI), collated data from a survey of 97 Australian wool growers in different states, climate zones and rainfall areas, and shows that it is largely good breeding choices—genetics—that will enable industry to end its reliance on mulesing, without compromising the producers’ bottom line nor expose sheep to flystrike. The report and numerous testimonials demonstrate that switching to flystrike resistant sheep genetics and good farm management is a win for animals and humans.
Put simply, wool producers can breed plain-bodied sheep without the wrinkle that causes issues, which attract flies. These sheep are more resistant to all forms of flystrike protecting their whole bodies for life, completely negating the need for them to undergo mulesing or any other physical mutilation.
“In the interests of both the animals and the Australian wool industry, it’s time to make a plan to transition away from mulesing,” says Picallo Gil.