London 29 September 2023 – Located only an hour away from the fashion capital Milan, in a small town called Biella, the Natural Fibre Connect Conference (NFC) takes place on the 28th and 29th September. The high-level industry event is organised by leading wool, cashmere, mohair and alpaca producers. Together they call for more “natural fibres” by 2030 while the global animal organisation FOUR PAWS, and a growing number of consumers call for higher animal welfare and an end to the cruel mutilation of lambs called mulesing.
400 international fashion brands have publicly stated their opposition to mulesing, showcasing the growing global demand for cruelty-free wool. Leading brands like Adidas, Hugo Boss or Mara Hoffman go a step further and have signed the open letter by FOUR PAWS to show their commitment to only source higher welfare wool which avoids the practice by 2030. The open letter also calls on the Australian wool industry to meet the demand for non-mulesed sheep wool by this date.
FOUR PAWS is at the event calling on the industry and every Australian wool grower, to switch to flystrike resistant sheep breeding and management to eliminate both flystrike and mulesing.
The choice for Italy, to host this year´s hybrid Natural Fibre Connect may not come as a surprise. While being home of many international and well-known fashion houses, the Southern European state is also the second biggest importer of Australian wool by value. While many Australian wool growers have already proven that breeding plain-bodied and flystrike resistant sheep is possible and economical viable, the vast majority of Australian lambs still have to endure excruciating pain, shock and trauma when brutally cut only being a few weeks old.
Rebecca Picallo Gil, head of the end mulesing campaign at FOUR PAWS says: “Globally, mulesing takes the lead as the largest mutilation conducted on farmed animals. FOUR PAWS will be in attendance to make the case to industry that true progress on mulesing is down to every member in the global wool supply chain. Pain-free alternatives are available, and can save millions of lambs from this severe suffering if taken up.”
Brands against Mulesing
FOUR PAWS started to actively document international brands that have made public anti-mulesing commitments since 2020. What has started with 100 brands has grown to a remarkable number of 400 in total in the last three years. Another group of over 70 compassionate brands have signed the open ‘Brand Letter of Intent’ calling for joint effort to end mulesing by 2030.
“Together with global fashion brands and consumers we call upon global wool supply chains to go mulesing-free and support producers to transition towards flystrike resistant sheep by 2030. Good breeding choices and management can simultaneously end reliance on mulesing, as well as achieve results in higher lamb and ewe survival, better pasture conversion which is also good for the environment and overall healthier sheep contributing to an economical benefit, as witnessed by many Australian wool growers.”
Rebecca Picallo Gil, head of the End Mulesing Campaign at FOUR PAWS
80 per cent of the Merino wool for the global fashion market come from Australia - the only country in the world where mulesing is still practiced. Mulesing entails large strips of skin sliced away from the hindquarters of lambs a few weeks old, generally without adequate pain relief. This causes intense pain, fear and stress for animals. Mulesing is used as a quick and cheap way to prevent infestation by blowflies, but there are alternative methods available. Alternative options include breeding flystrike resistant sheep and management eliminating both flystrike and mulesing.