New England Wool and Animal Welfare – General Information
New England Wool, on behalf of its Italian shareholders Reda and Vitale Barberis Canonico, promotes sustainable production of superfine wool with emphasis on wool produced under natural pastoral / grazing conditions and with the highest regard to the Environment and the Animal.
New England Wool is a strong advocate for the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) National Wool Declaration (NWD) which provides information to the Australian auction market from wool growers on the status of chemical use and flystrike prevention strategies on each particular farm. New England Wool implores all Australian wool growers to complete this document and provide the information for every bale of wool they offer for sale to all potential purchasers of that wool.
New England Wool has paid very close attention to the issue of suitable flystrike prevention in the Australian flock. We understand the complexities of this issue and have worked with the Australian Wool Industry to promote practices that satisfy the Animal Welfare requirements of sustainable wool production whilst respecting the practicalities of wool production on a commercial basis. In 2008, in the very early days of the flystrike prevention debate and the practice of “mulesing”, New England Wool was at the forefront in developing a Declaration system for growers to declare if they did not mules their sheep, or if they had made the decision to “Cease” mulesing. Our Company understood that for growers to do this there would definitely be an extra cost to the grower of both management and extra particular chemical use. New England Wool initiated a “Rebate” system whereby our Company paid the grower A$100 for every bale of non-mulesed wool purchased by our Company. This amount was to help cover these extra costs.
The scheme was developed after discussions in Italy between the shareholders and management of New England Wool. We understood that New England Wool was not a large company in the broad scheme of the Australian wool industry, but in our specific area of the best quality superfine wool, we believed we were quite prominent. We consistently worked very closely with our suppliers and for this reason we felt a responsibility to support them in achieving the ultimate goal of a non-mulesed future for the Australian wool industry.
The Shareholders of New England Wool are particularly aware of the vexing issue of the blowfly and flystrike management. Most importantly;
A high percentage of our suitable wool is produced in areas where flystrike is prevalent
The saxon or traditional superfine sheep is likely to have more wrinkle around the breach area of the animal, making them more susceptible to flystrike.
Genetic changes are slow and may affect/change the quality of wool produced from such sheep.
However, the practice of mulesing, particularly without any form of pain relief, is fast becoming unacceptable by the clients of our shareholders and the wool industry in general. We understand that alternatives are being sought, and this must continue. We also pledge to support those producers who have ceased the process of surgical mulesing by offering financial support in the auction room and in the variety of long-term contract initiatives we manage each season. We do know that the ultimate strategy will come down to a raft of on-farm practices and management tools that will assist growers to make this major change without adversely affecting the quality of the raw product, or the welfare of the animal.
Our Company fully supports the continuation of research into non-invasive methods of flystrike prevention and the cessation of mulesing whilst always seeking the very best welfare outcome for the animal. Since 2010, New England Wool has applied the concept of using a higher price in the auction room on wools that come from non-mulesed sheep (NM) or wool from farms where mulesing had ceased (CM). This philosophy was augmented by the development of the SustainaWOOL™ Integrity Scheme (see below) where premiums were offered to wool producers exhibiting high standards of environmental, social and animal welfare credentials and responsibility.
It must be emphasized that the quality of the wool purchased by New England Wool will not be compromised. The “premium” for NM and SustainaWOOL raw pruduct will only be applied to wool that conforms, first and foremost, to the high-quality standards set by our shareholder customers.
The SustainaWOOL™ Integrity Scheme
The SustainaWOOL™ Integrity Scheme (SW) was developed and then launched in 2015 by New England Wool (in association with our shareholders) in response to the demand coming from consumers, retailers and manufactures. Since its inception, and thanks to the support given by is wool grower members, SW amassed over 950 accredited farms making it the largest sustainability scheme in the wool industry worldwide.
In a positive decision to further promote the sustainability credentials of professional wool producers within Australia, I announced with great pleasure in July 2019 that New England Wool (NEW) would transfer 100% ownership of the SustainaWOOL™ Integrity Scheme (SW) to the independent industry body, the Australian Wool Exchange Ltd (AWEX).
The personal enthusiasm and unwavering support for the scheme, and for NEW, exhibited by the suppliers was overwhelming and this was the overarching reason why SW achieved such significant growth and recognition, both domestically and internationally. We would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank all those Australian wool producers who joined NEW on this journey and for taking this leap of faith with us – but it was only the beginning
While the scheme achieved many major milestones including the large number of participants and promotion of Australian wool producers throughout the industry, the benefits of SW membership had been restricted to those producers who grew wool specifically suited to New England Wool and its Italian shareholders. As the Scheme grew, attracting members from all corners of Australia, an increasing proportion of the accredited farms, while still achieving the sustainability standards woven into the fabric of the scheme, did not have the ability to promote their credentials to other international wool users. Accordingly, NEW and its shareholders were excited to pass stewardship of the scheme to the Australian Wool Exchange, who were best placed in the wool industry to take the scheme to the next level allowing all wool from accredited farms to be made available to users across the globe.
The Australian wool industry has a wonderful story to tell in the sustainability space. The SW scheme continues to shine a positive light on the many farm practices performed as part of the daily routines of professional wool producers which clearly exhibit a commitment and dedication to sustainability. SustainaWOOL™ under the guidance of AWEX now provides the Australian wool industry with a single, reputable and independent scheme to promote the wonderful, high quality, sustainably produced, clean and green fibre – which is Australian wool.
AWEX has been working with and supplying services to SW from the beginning, so choosing AWEX was a natural and logical choice. Mark Grave (CEO AWEX) received resounding support from the wider wool community, including exporters, manufacturers and retailers to host an industry wide scheme, and we definitely have the utmost confidence that AWEX is best placed to take on this challenge.
For SW members accredited when New England Wool was still the custodian of the scheme do not need to do anything at this point. Each individual SW accreditation and history remains in place and Mark Grave will be writing to all members shortly to introduce AWEX and map out the positive future for SW.
NEW and its shareholders have been a driving force in the area of sustainability within the wool industry for many years. It has been through this commitment that SustainaWOOL™ was first created. NEW is therefore heavily invested in the future success of SW and is totally committed to supporting, assisting and promoting the scheme within the AWEX framework. SW is a scheme that our wool producers helped us to build. NEW and its shareholders are truly proud of what we have achieved together in the past four years alongside the wool producers of Australia. We are, however, just as excited and enthusiastic for the future of SustainaWOOL™ and we truly believe that this change of ownership to an independent body is the correct decision, to allow the scheme to grow, strengthen and create wider benefits to wool producers and users alike.