PEAK wool grower body WoolProducers Australia has lost its NSW Farmers board member over the national body’s policy to mandate pain relief for the surgical mulesing of sheep.
NSW Farmers wool committee chairman Andrew Wood was a WoolProducers Australia board member until he resigned last week due to a conflict of interest on the issue of mandating pain relief for surgical mulesing.
NSW Farmers strongly encourages the use of pain relief when mulesing and enhancement of animal welfare outcomes. It has also lobbied for the National Wool Declaration to be a mandatory requirement of sale, in order to drive uptake.
WPA’s website says Mr Wood and his wife Lou farm on a 2600 acre property outside of Armidale, New South Wales. Their operation includes a self-replacing Merino flock of 3000 ewes.
His resignation has prompted intervention and support from the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association, which is promoting a NSW Farmers survey about mulesing and pain relief.
The latest conflict over the pain relief issue arose after a WPA health and welfare committee meeting in November last year decided to change WPA’s policy that growers must use pain relief for mulesing to seeking mandatory application of pain relief for mulesing, but not the banning of the flystrike preventative surgical operation.
The change became WPA policy with the majority support of the industry representatives at the WPA meeting, including those from Merino breeder bodies and NSW Farmers. However, Mr Wood who replaced current WPA president Ed Storey on the committee, has protested that the policy is against NSW Farmers’ stance on the issue.
WPA has since moved to enshrine mandatory pain relief for mulesing federally, initially via the audited voluntary National Wool Declaration integrity program, which is used by growers to declare whether they mules their sheep, use pain relief or have ceased mulesing.
NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association vice president Hamish McLaren said in an email distributed to members yesterday that Mr Wood asked him to send the email including a link to a mulesing views survey that closes on Friday this week.
Mr McLaren said Mr Wood had resigned from the WoolProducers Australia board “because of his conflicted position regarding the WoolProducers Australia policy position on mandating pain relief for the practice of mulesing.”
“Andrew, NSW Farmers, and NSW Stud Breeders think people should have choice in what is best for their animals.
“We all support and encourage animal best practice, which includes pain relief, but we do not support a policy of mandatory pain relief,” Mr McLaren said.
“Andrew has asked me to flick you all this reminder if you haven’t seen it yet, and encourage you all to take the mulesing views survey (link below) that closes THIS FRIDAY.
“If you are a member of NSW Farmers’ please take this survey below. If you are not a member then you could let them know your views via the email: firstname.lastname@example.org,” Mr McLaren wrote.
“Our Association thinks it is very important that we let everyone know that we don’t need to regulate anything else in this country. Be careful of the last few questions in this survey.
“What would be the difference between an “industry-led initiative” and “government regulation?” the stud breeder asks,” Mr McLaren continues.
“Over time it means the same bloody thing.
“It is dangerous signing up to any initiative, unless you know what is involved,” he wrote.
“We all do what is best for our animals, but these regulations (both the NWD and PR) will only cost more time and more money. OUR time and OUR money!!!”
The NSW Farmers mulesing views survey asks growers about their mulesing and pain relief practices and how they use the NWD, including whether they support mandating pain relief for mulesing. The survey also asks if growers think a compulsory NWD would be an effective method of enhancing transparency of on-farm practices; whether mandating pain relief for mulesing is an effective strategy to retain the practice and if they are concerned about mulesing being banned.
A NSW Farmers spokesman said the association’s current policy strongly encourages the use of pain relief during mulesing.
“Retaining mulesing as an effective flystrike control method is fundamental to our policy.
“As a farmer-driven organisation, our policy comes from the grass roots and our members are the only ones that decide whether policy change is required.
The spokesman said the discussion about mandating pain relief is one of the reasons NSW Farmers is consulting with its members about their views “and they will make any decisions about any changes”.
WPA chief executive officer Jo Hall confirmed that Mr Wood resigned last week, but was not prepared to comment further. Mr Wood had not returned Sheep Central’s calls before this story was published.