PETA tells Aussies to back away from sheep’s behinds

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

SYDNEY–Long resisting animal welfare reform, Australian
sheep trade defenses may be unraveling, after PETA yanked the thread
of the New York City-based outdoor fashion retailer Abercrombie &
Fitch in October 2004 with the threat of a boycott hitting Australian
wool goods.
Australia exports about $3 billion U.S. worth of wool per
year, competing against synthetic fibres largely on the cachet of
being a natural product. Market surveys show that consumers who
prefer “natural” also prefer “cruelty-free.” Thus U.S. retail fur
sales fell by half in three years of intensive anti-cruelty
campaigning, 1988-1991, while furriers’ defense of fur as
“natural” largely failed.
Marketing a rival product to fur, the wool industry tried to stay
inconspicuous, and mostly succeeded. Within the animal rights
movement, only Christine Townend in her 1985 book Pulling The Wool
argued that the wool industry also should become a priority
target–until now.

Borrowing a tactic from the “playbook” of boycott strategies
assembled by the late Henry Spira just before his death in 1998,
PETA sent Abercrombie & Fitch samples of ready-to-print-and-post
boycott materials.
The campaign was to focus on two abuses.
One is “mulesing,” the practice of cutting away folds of skin
around a merino sheep’s anus–without anesthetic–as a discredited
folk preventative for flystrike. Once done wherever merino sheep
were raised, but now routine only in Australia, mulesing gave rise
to the barnyard phrase “Ain’t no skin off my ass,” referring to
indifference toward others’ concerns. PETA planned to use that
The other abuse is live sheep export to the Middle East, the
fate of 4.2 million Australian sheep in 2003, and 2.6 million in
2004 through September.
PETA reportedly sent similar threats and packets to more than
20 other high-profile U.S. retailers. Abercrombie & Fitch was
apparently first to respond, with 749 stores and $1.2 billion in
sales at risk.
“We shall not support the Australian merino wool market until
both mulesing is ended and the live export of Australian sheep
ceases,” Abercrombie & Fitch director of investor relations Thomas
Lennox wrote to PETA. “To that end,” Lennox pledged, “Abercrombie
& Fitch does not intend to knowingly sell products using Australian
merino wool until both practices are ended.”
“Abercrombie & Fitch does not use Australian wool,” National
Farmers Federation president Peter Cornish said. “The Australian
Veterinary Association and the Royal SPCA accept mulesing as a
necessary husbandry procedure.”
“You can’t sit down with animal rights people,” RSPCA
/Australia president and World Society for the Protection of Animals
board president Hugh Wirth stated via the Australia Broadcasting
Corporation. “They’re irrational.”
On October 27, however, Australian agriculture minister
Warren Truss unveiled new draft standards for live animal export.
Then a November 8 meeting of Australian wool industry leaders ended
with a statement that mulesing is to end in Australia by 2010.
“We all acknowledge that PETA is extreme in their views,”
Wool Producers president Robert Pietsch told Michael Bradley of the
Sydney Morning Herald, “but our decision is in no way responding to
their demands. Our customers and retailers are the ones asking for
this, not PETA.”
Amended Wirth, “PETA has merely drawn attention to a known
cruelty…It has been perfectly obvious to the RSPCA that there has
been insufficient effort to solve this problem, and it is also clear
that it has taken this crisis and its international focus to fix it.”
Said PETA Asia-Pacific director Jason Baker, “To say that it
will take six more years to end mulesing is ridiculous. They could
end it today. Our campaign will continue.”
The Australia Broadcasting Association “National Rural News”
reported on November 10 that Australian Wool Innovation Inc. “has
lodged a claim with the Federal Court,” under the Trade Practices
Act, “seeking to restrain PETA from threatening or pressuring
retailers to boycott Australian wool,” and asking the court to order
PETA to pay for “corrective advertising” in the U.S.

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