AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation (AWI) is tight lipped about a closed-door meeting later this month with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to resolve the long-running dispute between the two parties.
Federal Court judge Steven Rares recommended AWI, PETA and Animal Liberation NSW become involved in private mediation following a court appearance on May 22.
The case has already cost AWI about $3 million in legal fees during two years of moving through the Federal Court system.
AWI is still adamant PETA and its global anti-mulesing campaign directly affected the businesses of Australian woolgrowers and says a mulesing alternative will become available by 2010.
But while AWI insists the 2010 surgical mulesing deadline stands, a viable alternative is yet to be made commercially available on a mass scale.
In a brief statement to the media, AWI deputy chief executive officer Les Targ said AWI was not backing away from its claims.
³We have been frustrated with the speed of the legal case and mediation could potentially hasten the process,² Mr Targ said.
³Our aim has always been to protect the interests of Australian woolgrowers and we will continue to do this.
³The terms of that mediation are currently being negotiated by all parties.²
National and state wool lobby groups remain supportive of AWI, despite the lack of information surrounding the confidential mediation process.
They believe the mediation process between AWI and PETA is a step forward.
WoolProducers president Robert Pietsch said the industry would have liked mediation to occur earlier, but the discovery phase of the case needed to occur before any out of court meeting could take place.
³It hasn¹t been AWI that has tried to stall this case,² Mr Pietsch said.
³Obviously everyone in the industry wants to see the best outcome possible as soon as possible.
³This is another big issue the industry has had to face during some pretty tough times.²
Mr Pietsch said all PETA had to do was acknowledge woolgrowers were using the highest animal welfare standards and then stay off the industry¹s back.
³As far as woolgrowers go, they¹ve done nothing wrong,² he said.
³PETA is the adversary here and if mediation gets the outcome we are looking for then we have no problem with it.²
Mr Pietsch said the wool industry had led the way when fighting animal welfare activists¹ claims.
³I still believe this has been very successful, not only from a woolgrower¹s perspective but from an overall agriculture perspective.²