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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign against mulesing and live export of sheep.

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Friday 15 October 2004

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign against mulesing and live export of sheep


MARK COLVIN: After tormenting the Prime Minister on t he election trail for six weeks, Lucy the sheep has struck again, triggering a boycott of Australian wool by one big US retailer. 


The US-based animal rights organisation which sooled Lucy onto John Howard, has persuaded the American fashion chain Abercrombie and Fitch to ban the use of Australian-produced wool in its clothing. 


Now it's pressuring other retailers to follow suit because it says Australian sheep are being subjected to cruel and unnecessary treatment. 


Nick Grimm has our report. 


(protester shouting "ban mulesing! Ban live export! Imagine having your arse cut off with these mulesing shears. You must stop this cruel practice now!") 


NICK GRIMM: John Howard was hounded on the campaign trail by a six foot tall sheep called Lucy, who many television viewers may have thought looked more like snoopy the dog than an Aussie merino, but nevertheless stood out from the pack of koalas, bandicoots, rats, and other rodents which were also hot on the Prime Minister's tail. 


PROTESTER: Millions of sheep suffer every day…  


JOHN HOWARD: She's reasonably good (inaudible)… although she has woken up some of my neighbours at Kirribilli on a few occasions. 


NICK GRIMM: But John Howard might today be wondering whether the woolly mascot that he cuddled with the media watching on, was in reality a wolf in Lucy the sheep's clothing. 


It turns out that Lucy is a card-carrying member of the animal rights organisation, PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 


It seems that PETA has succeeded in persuading the American fashion retail chain, Abercrombie and Fitch, to boycott the use of Australian wool in its clothing. 


Mind you, it's been suggested that persuasion included a threatened advertising campaign against the company and its products, featuring blood-splattered images of Australian sheep suffering the indignity, not the mention the outright agony, of having the loose folds of skins cut away from around their anus, a process known as mulesing. 


MATT RICE: Well right now we're talking to over a dozen large, well-known retailers and department stores asking them the same thing we asked Abercrombie and Fitch, which is to boycott Australian wool until both of these cruel practices are stopped. 


NICK GRIMM: Matt Rice is PETA's spokesman in the United States. 


MATT RICE: And we hope that it won't be a long campaign hopefully. We hope the Australian wool industry will change their cruel practices and stop mulesing and stop the live export of sheep. 


NICK GRIMM: PETA has also targeted Australia's wool producers, due to their link to the export of live sheep for the Middle East meat trade. 


The Sheep Meat Council of Australia meanwhile argues that the thinking behind PETA's free-the-sheep campaign is, well, a bit woolly-headed. 


President of the Council, Ian Feldman. 


IAN FELDMAN: It's always concerning, and it's very concerning in this case that campaigners are using scare tactics, not using their campaign based on facts. 


NICK GRIMM: And the National Farmer's Federation is also arguing that Australian sheep farmers are being falsely accused of cruelty. 


President Peter Corish. 


PETER CORISH: It's based on misinformation. Unfortunately it's been done for all the wrong reasons. 


NICK GRIMM: Does this organisation though, this animal rights organisation PETA, does it have a fair point? I mean, is mulesing and the live export trade a bit cruel? 


PETER CORISH: Well let's deal with them one at a time. Mulesing is a little bit like going to the dentist. Certainly some pain associated with the procedure, but if you don't have the procedure and something is wrong, the outcome is much, much worse. 


NICK GRIMM: Okay, what about the live export trade? 


PETER CORISH: Well certainly the live export trade is very important for Australian sheep and Australian farmers. Nine thousand Australian jobs depend on the live export trade. 


NICK GRIMM: Abercrombie and Fitch has a two billion dollar a year turnover in the United States, marketing itself to young, fashion-conscious and cashed-up customers. 


WARREN TRUSS: Well I think this particular company is well-noted for its publicity stunts. 


NICK GRIMM: Federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss. 


WARREN TRUSS: So the impact of this ban at this stage will be very limited indeed. 


NICK GRIMM: You're not taking this very seriously at all then, by the sounds of that? 


WARREN TRUSS: Well, naturally we don't want any bad publicity about Australian products. The reality is that Australian wool is produced at the very highest standards, it's the best in the world, and the reality is the marketplace will want to continue to receive Australian wool because it is the best. 


NICK GRIMM: You think that this company, Abercrombie and Fitch is somehow complicit in this stunt? 


WARREN TRUSS: Well I'm told that they're noted for publicity stunts and therefore this action needs to be taken in that context. 


MARK COLVIN: The Federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss ending Nick Grimm's report.