AUSTRALIAN wool producers will consider leaving the industry if viable alternatives to mule-sing are not available by the 2010 deadline to stop the practice.
While some plan to continue mulesing beyond 2010 if suita-ble alternatives are not available, others are willing to stop run-ning sheep altogether, especially if the controversial practice is prohibited by law in the future.
One such producer is Northampton stud principal Kevin Gill, who said he would continue mulesing until a better alternative was available, or the practice was made illegal.
"I will definitely be mulesing past 2010 or not running Merino sheep at all," Mr Gill said.
"There are more and more wool growers expressing their concern for the viability of the merino sheep industry if the 2010 mulesing deadline is maintained. This is just what PETA want."
Mr Gill said there would be a lot of growers who would say it was too hard and get out of the industry.
"It could get to the level where there will not be enough wool produced to fund the Australian Wool Testing Authority effectively," Mr Gill said.
Industry-leading organisations had bowed to the threat of PETA and set too short a time frame to end mulesing, he said.
"At this present moment in time mulesing on most Australian farms needs to continue past 2010 for the sake of the welfare of the animals," Mr Gill said.
Mr Gill urged all Australian wool growers to contact Australian Wool Innovation, calling on them and the Federal Govern-ment to cease any further com-munication with PETA, remove the deadline, promote the spray-on pain relief and continue to move towards an effective mule-sing alternative.
Australian Wool Growers Association (AWGA) chairman Martin Oppenheimer said it would be a "damn shame" if wool growers felt they had no choice but to exit the industry if no viable alternative became available by the end of 2010.
"Misleading statements have led some farmers to believe that mulesing is likely to be prohibi-ted by law," Mr Oppenheimer said.
"But it is very unlikely that unless there are viable alternatives available, any government will ban mulesing.
"The industry is in the driver's seat so as long as woolgrowers feel as though they would be left without a way of protecting their sheep, it would be negligible to stop them from mulesing."
The welfare of the animals should be the industry's absolute priority.