WoolProducers Australia has joined angry opposition to proposed changes to the National Wool Declaration which would add a new category for alternative methods to surgical mulesing.
The NWD provides buyers and downstream users with information, signed by the producer, about the mulesing status of wool along with details about any risk of medullated and dark fibre contamination and on-farm chemical use.
NWDs are administered by AWEX, which manages Australia's wool auctions, and the proposed changes are being interpreted as a move to accommodate sheep freeze branding (which uses liquid nitrogen to remove skin around the breech area) on the document.
WoolProducers CEO, Jo Hall, said the peak national body had made a written submission to AWEX rejecting the proposed NM1 and NM2 categories.
NM1 would cover sheep not mulesed and not treated to an alternative method to mulesing while NM2 would cover sheep which had been given an alternative method to surgical mulesing.
"We are concerned the addition of these categories will cause immense confusion among not only growers but also along the supply chain," Ms Hall said.
"The current mulesing definition is the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears.
"The emergence of sheep freeze branding (SFB) is being touted as a potential alternative to mulesing but is now going through independent pain assessment trials which are yet to be finalised.
"There is a long standing and accepted definition of mulesing in Australia and we believe that if another procedure does not meet this definition then it should simply be defined as non-mulesed," Ms Hall said.
"WoolProducers is asking there is no change to the non-mulesing status on the NWD until at least the pain assessment trials on SFB are completed.
"Australian growers and government, through Australian Wool Innovation, have invested tens of millions of dollars looking into alternatives for mulesing under the premise that these alternatives would be acceptable.
"Any change to this approach would be a shifting of the goal posts for our industry that will essentially mean millions of dollars have been wasted.
"WoolProducers is keen to listen to our customers in the supply chain but is not interested in the views of activists groups whose aim is to shut down livestock production," she said.
"WoolProducers also has concerns that if there is adoption of split definitions of non-mulesed, which is essentially including any form of breech modification, that this could potentially lead to other husbandry procedures, such as tail docking, as being included in this in definition."
Submissions into this consultation will be accepted by AWEX until January 31.
Meanwhile, three leading NSW and Queensland producers have written to AWEX to voice their concerns about the proposal and have launched a petition.
Norm Smith, Glenwood Merinos, Wellington, and Mark and Vicki Murphy, Karbullah Poll Merinos, Goondiwindi, said the proposal risked the integrity of the Australian wool industry.
"There are a percentage of growers throughout Australia with guidance many years ago who decided to genetically breed a Merino that did not need mulesing," they wrote.
"These growers have identified the changing consumer trends around the world and want to produce an ethical product that takes advantage of so many of wool's other attributes.
"By adding other breech modification techniques into a NM classification (NM2) we believe this complicates a simple declaration which will only be applicable in Australia.
"At the moment growers in Australia who do not mules have a premium advantage and this should be promoted not complicated.
"We understand these new breech modifications do not fit into the strict definition of mulesing, however why risk an established category which is already recognised all over the world?
"Why not use a new classification such as BM (breech modification) rather than risk an established price advantage for those that have already transitioned and risk confusion from the world's consumers?
"For too long the Australian industry has been mired by self-interest and this change to the NWD continues this tradition.
"Surely it is time to show some leadership and ensure the longevity of the Australian wool industry by promoting what is required by our customers all over the world.
"AWEX risks becoming irrelevant to all NM growers and the processors and brands who have made the decision not to use mulesed wool," they said.
The story Freeze push for new non-mulesed category, AWEX told first appeared on Farm Online.