THE PETA campaign against the wool industry, using a fake sheep that appears to have major shearing cuts, signals a new episode in the organisation’s long-standing crusade to demonise the industry.
And just as when it engaged in the campaign against mulesing, its goal is not to encourage improved animal welfare. Rather, the ultimate aim is to close down any livestock industry on the grounds that humans should not utilise animals for food, clothing or recreation.
The campaign is based on lies and misrepresentation. Serious shearing cuts are rare, good animal welfare is good for business, and farmers take care of their sheep. But PETA is not really arguing about these. They are the terrorists of the animal rights world, with a messianic ideology that they seek to impose on everyone else. And like terrorists elsewhere, their record shows they are willing to use violence to pursue their aims.
Predictably, most responses from the wool industry have been civil and soothing. The facts are on our side, they say. We are really serious about improving animal welfare. Maybe if we agreed to a little bit more regulation they’d be happy. And of course, why don’t we just sit down and work things out like nice people?
Here’s what I think – PETA are not nice people. If they talk to the industry, it is merely to gather information to use against it. They will compromise today, but only to give themselves time to commence a fresh attack tomorrow. Hysterical claims are what prompt donations from the gullible public. And the only reason they might leave the sheep industry alone for a time is because they are focusing on another sector, like chickens or pigs.
Quite simply, PETA is the enemy of the livestock industries. PETA must not only be defeated, it should be destroyed by any legal means available.
When PETA launched its campaign against mulesing a decade ago, Australian Wool Innovation adopted a strategy of appeasement. Millions of dollars were spent promoting alternative means of flystrike control and finding non-surgical alternatives to mulesing. As a consultant at the time, I had a small role in seeking commercial partners for some of these alternatives.
In the end it became obvious that AWI had misjudged its members. Mulesing is cheap, effective and, especially compared to flystrike, totally defensible. As I predicted to AWI at the time, wool producers simply refused to give it up. Moreover, the market for wool from unmulesed sheep, supposedly driven by garment manufacturers and retailers intimidated by PETA, never developed. In the end it is consumers, not retailers, who make markets. The PETA roar was exposed as the squeak of an impotent mouse.
The wool industry should not forget that lesson. PETA is not invincible; it can be challenged and beaten.
There are many ways in which the fight can occur, and it is likely it won’t be limited to one. In the court of public opinion there are social media and mainstream media, where opinions can be influenced. In the courts of justice there are criminal and civil remedies against such things as trespass, incitement, malicious damage, defamation and nuisance. And of course there is the court of political opinion, where politicians with little knowledge of and no interest in the sheep industry might find themselves being asked to do something.
But wherever the fight takes place, there should be no appeasement. Any step backwards, even of a minor nature, will never be regained. The wool industry must stand its ground, fight back, and not give an inch.