Australian wool grower body passes buck on PETA video

Terry Sim, April 13, 2015

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 president Richard Halliday

WoolProducers president Richard Halliday

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.”



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  1. The footage is unfortunately real. There is no denying that this happens, when you see this evidence before you. Sheep are gentle creatures, they do not deserve to be treated like this. Nobody should be treated like this.

  2. Peter Small, April 14, 2015

    Well, well, well. This issue was dead until Barnaby Joyce got a run of blood to the head, as we all know he is inclined to do, and gave PETA their eagerly-sought prominence. And now my poor wool industry colleagues, in a lather, you all rush in for the jugular. Can you not see what you are doing? Together with our minister you are giving PETA “the hit” they so desire.
    Can I give you all some advice based on experience as chairman of a company that designs and manufactures 100 percent Merino wool product? The only people in the world today who can afford to buy pure wool garments are discerning, well-educated people with high disposable incomes. One look at Mr Weinhofen and his video clip and intellectually they dismiss him for what he is. As for producers being in a sweat about his influence on the meat market, forget it. We have no hope of supplying the demand. Forget this nonsense and put your minds to producing more and better product, wool or meat, that the whole world, except for a few cranks, likes.

  3. Jony Linden, April 14, 2015

    I applaud PETA for blowing the whistle on yet another practice of animal cruelty, especially one that endorses the widespread practices of tail-docking and mulesing – a bloody process that involves slicing off the skin and flesh around a lamb’s tail without anasthetic.

    The mistreatment inherent in the wool industry (not just through mulesing, but also the more general cruelty clear in this video: is a result of using living, sentient creatures as resources in a huge, mass-producing industry. Even one example in a million is too many when it concerns the lives of innocent creatures.

    This investigation found not just one example, though, but 19 examples, in three Australian states. The footage shows sheep being kicked, stamped on, slammed into the ground, punched repeatedly on the nose, pinned down, stabbed with shears and cut with no anesthetic. Such cruelties are never justifiable, and I thank PETA for bringing them to the attention of the public.

  4. Fiona Lake, April 14, 2015

    Poor advice to ignore the issue.
    Because if ignored, people unfamiliar with the wool industry will naturally presume silence is because the industry has nothing to say in its defence, and conclude that what PETA is saying is the complete truth.
    Very unwise to ignore the constant drip, drip, drip of anti-livestock industry misinformation put online and into our media (via media releases printed and reported word-for-word without any journalists querying veracity). These are orchestrated campaigns, chipping away carefully at a range of issues. With a long-term goal in mind – abolishing livestock industries, worldwide. Animal rights extremists are a minority, but they’re cashed up and motivated by one-eyed zealotry. Ignoring their efforts is foolish. All Australian livestock industry bodies need to step up to the plate and tackle this misinformation head on. Start by broadcasting the fact that the ‘sheep’ in this PETA campaign, is actually made of foam.

  5. Peter Small, April 14, 2015

    The shrill commentary on this issue by Minister Barnaby Joyce this morning on the ABC rural program, confirmed my post last night that Mr Weinhofen is best ignored. Mr Joyce has successfully given PETA the oxygen they yearn. He would have been more discerning if he had followed the lead of the ABC who had made a policy decision apparently, that PETA had had enough air time already on this issue!

  6., April 14, 2015

    Richard Halliday, didn’t you know that the best form of defence is attack, show a bit of guts and get into PETA, it’s not hard, they are sitting ducks with all their lies.

  7. Peter Small, April 13, 2015

    I don’t claim to know anything about PR, but I would have thought that the presentation by Jona Weinhofen was best ignored by growers and let the discerning consumers assess Mr Weinhofen alongside the product stories being created by strong brands that use and value wool.

  8. Just another example of PETA’s ill-informed members taking footage that is not an accurate representation of Australian’s agricultural industry and using it to corrupt the minds of those that don’t know any better. I agree that the industry needs to continue to push back and continue to show how high our standards really are. We need to educate the youth of the nation (including the cities) about the facts surrounding our strong agricultural history and our strong future as a sustainable food and fibre supplier for the world.

    I have yet to hear an anti-wool activist confirm that they do not use ANY wool products including carpets, underlay, insulation, bedding or felt. And don’t forget lanolin, which is of course is not only cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, but also in printer ink, adhesive tape, motor oil and lubricants to name a few. What a deprived world we would live in without wool! I know I would MUCH prefer to purchase an Australian wool jumper rather than synthetic plastic which is all acrylics are!

  9. Chick Olsson, April 13, 2015

    Whoever the AWI spokesman is needs to be sacked. The Statutory Funding Agreement allows AWI to do whatever is in the best interests of woolgrowers. What a hopeless organisation not to stand up and defend our fabulous shearers. Zero levy.

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