6 September 2021 - At the Wool Connect Conference taking place online from the 7th to the 9th of September, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS will once again raise its voice against animal cruelty in the fashion industry. With an open letter signed so far by over 30 global fashion brands, including Adidas, Patagonia and H&M, the animal welfare organisation is addressing the Australian sheep wool industry, the world's largest producer of merino wool. Their goal: a concrete action plan to eliminate mulesing by 2030. For the second time, the Schneider Group, an Italian family business and major sheep wool supplier, is the initiator of the industry event. Wool producers and sheep farmers worldwide will have the opportunity to meet directly with industry representatives at the conference to discuss issues such as mulesing.
"The brand letter is intended to send a strong signal to the Australian wool industry that it is time to abolish mulesing once and for all by setting concrete measures to enable the transition. More and more wool producers, fashion brands and consumers are demanding this."
Rebecca Picallo Gil, FOUR PAWS Wool Campaigner
The industry (still) leads the way
The Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the industry association representing the interests of Australian wool producers, has stated in their Wool 2030 Strategy an outcome tied to wool growers having the confidence and tools to manage flystrike without mulesing. FOUR PAWS welcomes the goal, but misses a concrete action plan to achieve it. According to Picallo Gil: "Many brands are switching to only use certified mulesing-free wool from 2025 on, which is five years earlier! In addition, studies have shown that the switch to resistant sheep breeds that make mulesing redundant takes only three to five years per farm. The AWI must be more consistent here and, above all, present a tangible action plan on how this goal is actually to be achieved by 2030."
A growing desire for animal welfare in the wardrobe
According to a recent FOUR PAWS survey of nearly 14,000 participants across twelve countries from Europe, North America, Africa and Australia, consumers' buying behaviour has changed since COVID-19: Almost one third (31%) of the respondents either consciously look for clothes with animal welfare standards or avoid animal textiles completely. Brands that follow this trend are preferred by one in three adults (37%) over other brands. This change in shopper behaviour is not only perceived by brands; the entire supply chain is also responding to these changing preferences.
Meredith Dawson Lawry, Sustainability Manager at New Zealand outdoor brand Icebreaker: “We were one of the first brands to exclusively use wool from non-mulesed sheep. It’s important to the consumer, but even more it’s important for the animal. Consumers are more conscious than ever and we feel it is our responsibility to drive awareness and demand for ethically-sourced product.”
"For the sake of animals, consumers and fashion brands, we want to use the momentum of the open brand letter to encourage AWI to develop a bold action plan to make mulesing history by 2030 the latest," Picallo Gil said.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.uk