A global boycott of Australia's multi-billion dollar wool trade is intensifying. South Korea's Kukdong Corporation, which distributes the Pierre Cardin and NAF NAF clothing brands, has joined the animal welfare protest. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
The decision by the South Korean clothing giant is another blow for Australia's $2 billion wool industry.
Kukdong Corporation executives say the company opposes the practice of mulesing.
The procedure involves the slicing of skin from the sheep's rear end to stop it being infected by flies and maggots. It has infuriated animal welfare activists and prompted boycotts of Australian wool by several big companies.
Among them are retail heavyweights Hugo Boss, Nike and Abercrombie and Fitch, which are phasing out their use of Australian wool.
The issue is extremely contentious and Australian farmers have promised to abandon the technique next year. More than a quarter of sheep producers have done so already.
Melina Kukdonga scientific officer with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia, thinks public pressure will force change to occur.
"The public, and that includes consumers as well as retailers, are less and less tolerant of husbandry procedures that cause pain or suffering or distress to the animal concerned. It is controversial and from [an] RSPCA point of view it is a good thing that research alternatives are looking quite promising and that mulesing, if things go to plan, will be phased out in Australia by end of 2010," said Kukdong.
Australian producers say they are disappointed with the decision of South Korea's Kukdong Corporation to join the international protest. Farmers say that research into alternatives to mulesing is continuing.
Farm representatives think the global boycott is simply a "token gesture" as participating companies use only small amounts of Australian wool.
The wool industry is struggling under the weight of the global financial crisis. This year's harvest is expected to be the smallest since 1925, although farmers say this is a cyclical downturn in demand, which has been made worse by the world's economic problems.