WoolProducers Australia – the representative body for the nation’s woolgrowers – today handed the responsibility for commenting on the latest PETA video campaign to the industry’s research, marketing and development body.
However, a spokesman for the levy-funded body – Australian Wool Innovation – today said AWI was forbidden to directly represent the Australian wool industry or speak on behalf of woolgrowers.
Woolproducers Australia leader says call AWI
WoolProducers Australia president Richard Halliday today declined to give his opinion of the latest controversial PETA video that attacks shearers, shearing, mulesing and woollen garments.
He instead suggested Sheep Central contact AWI’s corporate affairs and international market access group manager Peta Slack-Smith for comment as part of a strategy “to keep oxygen out of the issue.”
After Mr Halliday spoke with Sheep Central, WoolProducers Australia later issued a statement that it refuted the ridiculous claims made by PETA regarding the Australian wool industry in the campaign targeting shearing.
WPA said Australian wool growers protect the health and welfare of their sheep through a variety of animal husbandry practices that are suited to the sheep type and the environment.
Sheep producers are continually investing in sheep health and welfare, and wool growers tend to their sheep every day, using appropriate and often world leading husbandry and management practices.
However, animal extremists wilfully ignore and misrepresent wool growers’ strong desire to protect their sheep from harm.
“This recent campaign by PETA has seen them resorting to using a fake lamb supposedly showing the after-effects of shearing, which is clearly deceitful and misrepresentative of the usual practice of shearing, ” WPA said.
“Animal rights groups also ignore the large body of scientific evidence that confirms the major advances in animal welfare made across Australia in recent years.
“Wool remains an environmentally friendly, sustainable, renewable resource that is low allergen. It is fire resistant, thermo-regulatory, and durable and of course is a naturally beautiful fibre,” the statement concluded.
Vegan rock guitarist uses fake lamb as prop
The video, featuring Adelaide-born vegan rock guitarist Jona Weinhofen, features footage of shearer cruelty against sheep in shearing sheds and a newborn lamb prop, implying that the prop’s mock injuries were suffered during shearing.
Mr Weinhofen claims the shearing industry is very cruel and shearers are paid “by the volume not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep.” He claimed that without interference, sheep produce just enough wool to protect them from temperature extremes, but sheep in Australia are shorn for profit. He suggests consumers choose non-wool clothes alternatives.
“I’ve been wearing non-wool products for 15 years and I’ve found that things like this (acrylic) sweater I’m wearing right now, keep me just as warm and cosy as any wool might.”
The PETA campaign has been criticised in social media and on PETA’s website, and in Australia’s newspapers, with Livestock SA president Geoff Power telling the Adelaide Advertiser that the footage was “false, doctored and misleading”.
“I’ve never seen a sheep shorn like the one in the poster, it’s a complete beat-up,” Mr Power said in the Advertiser.
WoolProducers lets AWI lead on PETA
However, Mr Halliday, also a South Australian sheep producer, said WoolProducers was working with AWI’s corporate affairs and international market access group manager Peta Slack-Smith on the issue.
“We’ll just work off their matrix, so contact Peta and see what she’s got to say about, will be the best,” he said.
Mr Halliday said part of Ms Slack-Smith’s role for the industry is to work on these issues.
“Even though she works for AWI, she is still doing it for the industry as a whole, OK?
“We are letting them represent the wool industry on this issue.”
WoolProducers policy is no oxygen for PETA
Mr Halliday said he would speak to his chief executive officer Jo Hall, but WPA had a policy of “trying to keep the oxygen out of the discussion”.
“That’s our position on a lot of PETA issues, we will try to keep oxygen out of the issue.”
But Mr Halliday said he was aware of the video Wednesday last week and knew some teenagers who had watched the PETA video.
“I found it quite interesting that they’ve said that PETA had copped a fair pasting on social media about it – I’m aware of that.
“Our policy as an organisation is we limit our comments so as we don’t give PETA any oxygen to work with and I am comfortable with that.”
But Mr Halliday gave credit to SA shearers quoted in a newspaper piece last week showing what a real sheep looks like when shorn.
“They’ve represented it quite well,” he said.
Mr Halliday said he had not seen any statement from AWI about the PETA video on the issue and a request by Sheep Central for comment did not generate any response on the issue.
“Jo had been in touch with them on Friday, because we had had contact from a couple of state farming organisations around it and we were just checking what we could and couldn’t say.
“They (AWI) may come up with a statement that fits with us so we are all actually giving the same message.”
AWI forbidden to present the industry
However, an AWI spokesman said the body was the research, development and marketing organisation for the wool industry.
“It is forbidden under its Statutory Funding Agreement to directly represent the wool industry or speak on behalf of woolgrowers,” he said.
Since 2005, considerable progress in the research and development program has been made with AWI investing $47 million in health and welfare R&D activities, including $28 million specifically in breech flystrike prevention, the spokesman said.
“In the last 12 months AWI has trained over 4000 professional shearers and wool handlers through an investment of $2.8million.
“Through its various global campaigns and activities AWI promotes the versatility, sustainability and modernity of wool.”
Barnaby Joyce comes out in defence of shearers
Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce today said the PETA video is “a load of rubbish”.
“In fact, it is a pack of lies.”
He said he had spoken to shearers who feel insulted by the video.
“Mr Weinhofen has turned up with a prop and basically said it was a sheep and completely disparaged the whole shearing industry.
“An industry which is our third largest rural export, an industry that supports about 25,000 farming families.
“An industry that underpinned the economic growth of our nation.”
Mr Joyce said it was PETA’s aspiration that people, including perhaps the members of the media at today’s press conference, should discard their woollen clothes.
PETA video campaign “a lie”
He said PETA as supporters of a vegan lifestyle did not offer any alternatives for 25,000 Australian farming families to earn an income.
“These people who have been doing it so tough for so long and are now starting to get a better return, deserve a bit of respect.
“And the first form of respect that they should get is that people shouldn’t lie and make allegations that are completely and utterly false,” he said.
“It was no more truthful, the allegation he makes, than the prop he was holding, which was not wool, it was a lie.”
“If we go back to living as content hunters and gatherers on the forest floor bed buck naked, I don’t think that is the idea of a successful economy.”
Mr Joyce criticised the practicalities of a vegan lifestyle and rejected the suggestion that he was merely giving PETA “the oxygen they want” by commenting on the video.
“No, I think it is time that some of these things be pushed back and you push back by taking their cause and showing people exactly what the world looks like if you follow their path.”
Shearing contractors says video is “completely misleading”
Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said th SCAA was committed to ensuring the shearing process was built on the cornerstones of human and animal welfare.
“The SCAA supports industry regulators and all welfare organisations to ensure that the unlawful acts of individuals with regard to animal cruelty are deal with swiftly and explicitly.
“With this in mind the latest PETA campaign featuring a fake sheep and Hollywood-style injuries is completely misleading and a desperate self-serving publicity stunt,” he said.
“The SCAA implores individuals who are concerned about the welfare of sheep in Australia to support legitimate animal welfare organisations such is the RSPCA and Animals Australia, who understand the real animal welfare issues and are working with industry to make any necessary changes.”