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Beyond the Bale : December 2017
As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) emerges as a key focus for businesses across the world, the animal health and welfare credentials of wool are under closer scrutiny than ever by buyers and retailers of Australian wool. The vast majority of Australian wool is exported and consumed in northern hemisphere markets, far removed from the farms on which the fibre is grown. Given this distance, it can be easy for the retailers/consumers to not be aware of the realities of farm practices in Australia, while equally easy for woolgrowers to not be aware of the needs of the mainly urban and often culturally diverse consumers. AWI therefore works hard to ensure the global wool supply chain is well informed about the high standard of on-farm animal welfare practices and the progress of R&D into flystrike prevention. Most of this work by AWI happens with customers overseas so it isn’t as clearly visible to woolgrowers in Australia, but it goes to the heart of what end consumers are seeking from growers, especially in regard to the animal health and welfare practices on-farm. AWI LIAISON WITH THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN Each year AWI leads a delegation (including a woolgrower and a researcher) to the northern hemisphere, where it meets with key brands, retailers, retail associations, welfare groups and NGOs. AWI’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs & International Market Access, Peta Slack-Smith, who has led these delegations since 2009, said there has been significant and positive change in the nature of the discussions with these groups over the past eight years, as their understanding of the welfare issues has developed. “By providing scientific evidence and forming productive relationships with companies, AWI has countered PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claims and helped countless companies understand that flystrike is a serious health and welfare risk, and in fact mulesing – while not pleasant – is an effective lifetime health and welfare tool for many woolgrowers,” Ms Slack-Smith said. “Through these meetings over the years, brands have become aware of the practicalities of optimising the production of fine apparel wool, while maintaining the animal health and welfare of their sheep. “The majority of brands AWI deals with now understand woolgrowers care for their animals and there are no ‘easy’ solutions to flystrike, and there definitely is not one simple answer for all sheep, on all farms. Rather animal welfare and best practice is dynamic and situational, reflecting the diversity of production systems, sheep type, management priorities and resources available.” AWI also outlines to brands the position of leading animal welfare organisations with which AWI works closely, such as RSPCA Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association, and the head of animal welfare in the European Commission. In addition to the annual delegation, throughout the year AWI supports brands seeking information and support, helping them understand the issues and source Australian wool that meets their various requirements. IMPORTANCE OF THE NATIONAL WOOL DECLARATION In 2008 it was common to read about brands not wanting to source mulesed wool from Australia. That's no longer the case but they want to see change. “The important message on this front for woolgrowers is that more brands are prefering to source both non-mulesed AND pain relief declared wool, although only some will only source non-mulesed wool,” Ms Slack-Smith said. To put things into perspective, the annual turnover of some of these companies, individually, is greater than the entire value of the national woolclip (which had an export value of $3.6 billion in 2016/17). “Without exception in every meeting held during the recent welfare delegation, every company asked AWI to encourage Australian woolgrowers to declare their wool through the National Wool Declaration (NWD),” Ms Slack-Smith emphasised. “The 2016/17 AWEX annual figures for the NWD show that 61% of all wool sold is declared through the NWD. This figure needs to increase. “To ensure Australia meets the expectations of our customers, declaring your wool – regardless of what you are declaring (M, NM, CM, PR) – is one of the single most important business decisions you will make this year to ensure the country satisfies our customers’ requirements.” MORE INFORMATION Listen to the latest edition of AWI’s The Yarn podcast (available at www.wool.com/podcast) where you can hear directly from these companies about traceability, transparency and the need for woolgrowers to declare their wool through the NWD. “The retailers and brands across the world that buy Australian wool are clearly urging woolgrowers to complete the National Wool Declaration.” Peta Slack Smith AWI General Manager of Corporate Affairs & International Market Access. Meeting with US online clothing retailer Everlane: Everlane Product Quality Assurance Lead, Mauricia Tomasowa; Everlane Sourcing & Production Apparel Lead, Caitlin Grenon; AWI Key Account Manager Americas, Sarah Schlenger; Everlane Head of Sourcing & Production, Kimberly Smith; AWI’s Peta Slack-Smith; Australian woolgrower, Julian von Bibra... and ‘River’ the Australian shepherd dog. AWI helps ensure the global wool supply chain is kept well informed about the high standard of Australian woolgrowers’ animal welfare practices, but brands have stated they would like to see more woolgrowers declare their wool through the National Wool Declaration (NWD). ANIMAL WELFARE AND THE NATIONAL WOOL DECLARATION