Two female protesters from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) held up signs reading “Sheep suffer — ditch wool” and “Sheep kicked and beaten for wool” as they urged shoppers at Pitt Street Mall not to buy wool this winter.
The organisation directed people to its “video exposés of the wool industry around the world, including Australia”, which it said showed shearers punching sheep in the face, stamping on heads and necks, and jabbing them with electric clippers.
It claimed lambs were deliberately mutilated and left with bloody open wounds, had their tails chopped off, and were castrated without pain relief.
“Sheep are gentle prey animals who are petrified of even being held down, yet they endure vicious beatings and sustain bloody wounds and broken limbs when they’re used for wool,” said a PETA press release.
“Without human interference, sheep produce just the right amount of wool to keep them warm in the winter and shed it naturally during the warmer months.
“It’s arrogant to think that the animals whose bodies we have altered in order to make money wouldn’t be scared when we pin them down to rob them of their coats.”
But the confronting stunt caused outrage in the wool industry, with farmers attacking the protests as “uneducated” and “uninformed”.
Shearer and rural photographer James Braszell, from Lexton in Victoria, told news.com.au that his co-workers were “frustrated” that they had been given a bad name.
“It’s unfair to tarnish a whole industry with the same brush.
“Once again, it shows their lack of education on a topic they supposedly feel so strongly about.
“The ‘sheep’ they’re holding doesn’t even look like a sheep, and it’s got me beat how you could even rip skin off a sheep like the dummy they’re holding shows … That’s simply not an accurate portrayal of a shorn sheep.
“I’d say they’ve simply seen the two-minute long undercover video PETA released of shearers abusing sheep a few years back and assumed this happens at every woolshed — which it doesn’t.
“The majority do the right thing and don’t abuse sheep, so it’s a shame we have to go to work each day and be labelled as cruel, when we only want what’s best for the animal — an unhealthy sheep isn’t productive for farmers.
“I encourage everyone who is sceptical of the wool industry to look at both sides of this issue before accusing hardworking people in agriculture of being something they’re not — cruel.”
Wool Producers Australia President Ed Storey earlier told Ben Fordham on 2GB: “They have no trouble telling lies, this group.
“The care and welfare of our animal is the highest priority for the Australian sheep and wool industry.
“It’s absolute rubbish what these people are saying.”