TOP maker and Italian Wool Trade Association board member Claudio Lacchio has penned an open letter to Australian Wool Innovation chair Colette Garnsey contesting her statement to Australian wool growers that the “push” to non-mulesed wool is being driven by two European fashion houses.
Dear Ms Garnsey,
I have read with great interest your statements about non-mulesed wool published by Sheep Central, and assuming I understood it correctly, I would like to express a few comments as a board member of IWTA (Italian Wool Trade Association), other than being the owner of a top making company myself in Europe and as such, buyer of Australian greasy wool on a regular basis.
IWTA represents all the wool traders, top makers and agents in Italy and to a bigger extent in Europe, and we think we can consider ourselves as the most appropriate organisation to comment on this issue, as we trade Australian wool on a daily basis interpreting the demand of the whole European textile chain.
Mulesing has been unfortunately an ongoing issue for the last 20 years, and the premise has always been from our side that we are very far from being in a position to tell an Australian grower what should or should not be done when it gets to take care of his beloved animals. Nevertheless, we think it is fair to let you know what the reality is in our view, and think that denying the problem is not the correct approach, especially towards your fellow growers who should get the right message from the consumer‘s market.
The Italian delegation even presented a motion at the International Wool Textile Organisation Conference in Sydney as far back as 2016 on the mulesing issue, but it was blocked by the Australian committee, on the claim that it would have ruined the nice and festive atmosphere of the congress. Again, we felt it was a wasted opportunity for the growers to listen to the consumer’s voice.
It is, in the end, a grower decision what to do, but it is our duty, and yours as AWI, if I may say so, to advise the growers on what is required by the final customer.
We can assure you that it is not only “two European fashion houses pushing non-mulesing”, it is all about an entire textile sector, at least in Europe and America for that matter, demanding this kind of wool to produce, market and sell a sustainable product. In fact, most of the American and European retailers have committed to a transition to 100 percent non-mulesed wool sourcing by 2030, and even the recent review of the NWD does not offer enough transparency and traceability.
The market is open to whomever meets today’s requirements in terms of quality, transparency, sustainability and animal welfare issues. As you may be aware, other producing countries are in a position to deliver exactly what’s required by the European market, and these other countries are experiencing, and have done so for years now, bigger demand and eventually better prices.
We may also go further stating that some of the biggest Chinese processors might agree with us on this claim, as in turn they export their wool tops and yarns to Europe through some of IWTA associates, facing exactly the same requests and issues in terms of mulesing in particular, and animal welfare, in a broader sense.
It is with particular regret that we’ve read your words Ms Garnsey, because during a meeting held in Milan in September last year, you showed a very different approach to sensitive issues like mulesing compared to your predecessors. And you were expressing promises and commitments about a potential change of direction, at least in the sense of AWI passing back to the growers the right messages coming from the end-users market.
It seems as if nothing has really changed, and the memory goes back to another very unfortunate meeting held in Milano a couple of years back when your CEO answered the same question, stating that whether we liked it or not, to source the wool we needed we had to buy it in Australia, regardless of any other consideration, and almost deaf to our appeals.
We do love wool Ms Garnsey, and we do love Australian wool as much as the Aussie producers who share with us the same passion and enthusiasm. But we are also of the opinion that bodies representing the growers’ interest, like AWI, should responsibly channel the right messages, in terms of consumption trend, back to the growing sector, and then, it is always their call to decide upon the way to choose.
I do hope my comments are taken in the right, constructive, friendly and positive way they were thought of, and that have always distinguished the relationship between the Australian, Italian and European wool communities.