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24th October - Humane Society International calls for wool industry chief's resignation after Senate grilling over vested intere      



24th October 2017

The Australian wool industry is facing a reputational crisis with global markets turning away from Australian wool over the cruel practice of mulesing. Yet Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) has failed to meet deadlines to end it.

Questioning in Senate Estimates today has helped explain why.

Chair of the AWI, Wal Merriman, was grilled by government senators McKenzie, O’Sullivan and Abetz, over his conflicts of interest holding a stud with bloodlines that require mulesing; stacking the board with mates who do his bidding; and doing nothing to promote genetic solutions which eradicate the need for mulesing.

Wal Merriman told the senators AWI did not meet what he called the “supposed deadline” to phase out mulesing by 2010. Mr Merriman told senators research didn’t support an end to mulesing, despite the overwhelming evidence of the genetic solution to end mulesing already used by 1200 wool growers producing 7% of the country’s wool.

Senator Eric Abetz then asked Mr Merriman a key question as to whether he has a financial interest in selling a merino stud which requires mulesing. Mr Merriman replied that many wool growers do. Senator Abetz pointed out that the difference is they are not the chair of the AWI.

An example of the smooth bodied breed which does not require mulesing is SRS Merino (srsmerino.com.au). Dr Jim Watts from SRS Merino successfully developed a genetic breed of smooth bodied sheep which are fly strike resistant and do not require mulesing. They produce impeccable quality wool with no compromises in terms of volume and they are easier to sheer. The international wool market is demanding Australia shifts to cruelty free solutions.

“With the right leadership from AWI, the Australian wool industry could be supported to comprehensively transform the genetics of their sheep within 3-5 years to bring about an end to cruel mulesing in Australia,” said Nicola Beynon Head of Campaigns for Humane Society International in Australia.

The Australian wool industry is losing market share to non-mulesed wool from other countries. Yet AWI invests most of its research funds on mulesing into the use of pain relief (which is inadequate) instead of stopping mulesing altogether through genetics.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon questioned Mr Merriman over suspicions that AWI board members have or have had financial interests in the pain relief. He confirmed they did.

Humane Society International calls for Mr Merriman’s resignation and an urgent Senate Inquiry into AWI, its corporate practices and its failure to support an end to mulesing,” said Ms Beynon.

Mulesing is cruel and 75% of Australian lambs bred for wool suffer this practice. It involves slicing off strips of wrinkled skin from lambs’ buttocks to produce stretched skin with no wool in order to prevent fly strike. Genetic breeding can prevent fly strike which means mulesing is unnecessary.

“Australian Wool Innovation needs to be urgently reformed so that a new leadership can prioritise animal welfare and the long term interests of Australian wool growers,” concluded Ms Beynon.

Humane Society International is represented on the global Responsible Wool Board.

Senate Estimates on this issue continued at 1.45pm.


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