NEW South Wales Merino breeder Wal Merriman has refused to confirm or deny if he is joining the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association to oppose moves for members to support non-mulesing.
Sheep Central has been told the former Australian Wool Innovation chairman and Merryville Merino Stud owner has applied to join the ASWGA, reportedly to counter a move for association members to adopt a non-mulesing policy.
When contacted this weekend, Mr Merriman would not confirm or deny why he is seeking to become a member of the association.
“What I do is my business,” Mr Merriman said, before hanging up the phone.
Mr Merriman has been a long-time defender of mulesing, including lobbying members of other wool organisations and running on a pro-mulesing ticket in the 2019 AWI election with current directors David Webster and Michelle Humphries.
“All three of us have a strong belief in the importance of maintaining the practice of mulesing for best practice animal welfare and industry viability until a suitable alternative is available,” a shareholder letter from the three election candidates said.
ASWGA president Mark Waters said during a recent trip to Italy, most of the Italian mills, that are also ASWGA members, were looking for the grower-members to stop mulesing. This message was reinforced by Paolo Zegna, director of the Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna Group, during the recent ASWGA farm tour and dinner event in Tasmania.
“He just said it would be good if you fellows would lead the industry into unmulesed – so that started the ball rolling.
“There is a little group up here (three growers) in the New England (area of New South Wales) who are quite positive that’s where we need to go.”
“The vote is for the association, not for me – it’s a members’ vote, not my vote.”
He said an ASWGA commitment to a non-mulesed policy would involve a change of rules in the association’s constitution.
Mr Waters said he was about to do a regional trip through Victoria and Tasmania after visiting Goulburn and Mudgee members. The ASWGA annual general meeting will be held on 28 July in Melbourne.
“So we are just spelling out the facts; this is what’s going to happen if we stay, this is what’s going to happen if we move etcetera.
“I’m the meat in the sandwich, I’ve got blokes chewing at my ears from both sides.”
Mr Waters said an ASWGA commitment to non-mulesing has been talked about for some time. A ‘cease mulesing’ clause in the ASWGA animal welfare policy was proposed in 2017, but failed to get sufficient support.
Mr Waters said a lot of ASWGA members had stopped mulesing, but others had maintained the practice due to climatic conditions.
“Where we are now is we are still gathering information, we will get together, we’ve got our AGM in a couple of weeks.
“Then we’ll see if there is a big enough push to go.”
Mr Waters said 75 percent of financial members would need to support any change in the constitution for it to be successful.
“If the motion was put that we want to go to an unmulesed association and the vote got up, that’s what we would become.”
This would mean that growers who wanted to continue mulesing could not be ASWGA members, he said.
“But the motion’s got to get up.”
Mr Merriman’s application, along with other new applications, will have to go before a council meeting, at the annual general meeting.
Mr Waters said there might not be a vote on the issue at the AGM.
Earlier this month Farmonline reported that Former NSW ASWGA vice president and chairperson of the Goulburn Yass division Neil Carey had left the organisation because the body won’t take an anti-mulesing stance. Mr Carey could not be contacted.