A global boycott of Australia's
multi-billion dollar wool trade is intensifying. South Korea's Kukdong
Corporation, which distributes the Pierre Cardin and NAF NAF clothing brands,
has joined the animal welfare protest. From Sydney, Phil Mercer
The decision by the South Korean clothing giant is another blow
for Australia's $2 billion wool industry.
Kukdong Corporation executives
say the company opposes the practice of mulesing.
The procedure involves
the slicing of skin from the sheep's rear end to stop it being infected by flies
and maggots. It has infuriated animal welfare activists and prompted boycotts of
Australian wool by several big companies.
Among them are retail
heavyweights Hugo Boss, Nike and Abercrombie and Fitch, which are phasing out
their use of Australian wool.
The issue is extremely contentious and
Australian farmers have promised to abandon the technique next year. More than a
quarter of sheep producers have done so already.
scientific officer with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals in Australia, thinks public pressure will force change to occur.
"The public, and that includes consumers as well as retailers, are less
and less tolerant of husbandry procedures that cause pain or suffering or
distress to the animal concerned. It is controversial and from [an] RSPCA point
of view it is a good thing that research alternatives are looking quite
promising and that mulesing, if things go to plan, will be phased out in
Australia by end of 2010," said Kukdong.
Australian producers say they
are disappointed with the decision of South Korea's Kukdong Corporation to join
the international protest. Farmers say that research into alternatives to
mulesing is continuing.
Farm representatives think the global boycott is
simply a "token gesture" as participating companies use only small amounts of
The wool industry is struggling under the weight of the
global financial crisis. This year's harvest is expected to be the smallest
since 1925, although farmers say this is a cyclical downturn in demand, which
has been made worse by the world's economic problems.