Since the early 1950s, historians have credited Australia, with its vast tracts of Outback grazing land and booming wool trade, with riding to economic prosperity "on the sheep's back." \nNow a debate between farmers and animal rights activists over how to treat the skin on a sheep's backside is threatening to undermine the country's US$2.5 billion wool industry. \nEarlier last year, the US-based animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a campaign to pressure global retailers to boycott Australian wool over the use of a farming practice called mulesing. \nThe procedure -- named for the Australian rancher, J.H. Mules, who invented it -- involves slicing flesh and wool away from the sheep's rump to prevent blowflies from laying their eggs in the warm, damp skin. \nThe animals are strapped on their backs to metal bars while the skin is cut away, usually without anesthetic. \nFarmers say the practice is an essential part of caring for the animals in Australia's hot climate, although the wool industry has committed itself to phasing out the procedure by 2010 and finding a commercially viable alternative. But PETA brands the practice unnecessary mutilation and wants it stopped immediately. \n"The reason we launched this campaign is to show the world that if they're buying Australian wool as it stands today, they're supporting one of the cruelest industries in the world," PETA spokesman Matt Prescott told reporters by telephone from the US. \nWithout mulesing, as many as 3 million sheep could die each year of blowfly infestation -- or flystrike -- according to a statement from the industry association, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd. (AWI). Death by flystrike is so painful, the AWI says, that anyone seeking to ban the procedure should be charged with cruelty to animals. \nPeter Corish, president of the National Farmers' Federation, says he has seen sheep die within three days of being infested with blow-flies, and likens mulesing to seeing the dentist. It may be painful, but "the alternative is much, much worse," he said \n"The mulesing procedure is not pretty," Corish said. "But I can assure you that death by flesh-eating maggots is much worse." \nPETA says mulesing alternatives -- including chemical sprays, variations to diet and cross breeding -- are already being practiced by farmers across Australia. \n"Mulesing could be phased out today," Prescott said. "It's only done out of tradition and convenience.'' \nBut Scott Williams, the animal health and welfare spokesman for AWI, says mulesing is still the only method that offers lifetime protection to the sheep against flystrike, despite decades of research into possible alternatives. As a result, Williams said, up to 95 percent of farmers who raise merino sheep, Australia's main wool producers, employ the technique. \nAustralia's leading animal welfare organization -- the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) -- has refused to endorse mulesing except in very limited circumstances, but has also rejected PETA's moves to boycott Australian wool. \n"We believe it is necessary to work with industry and researchers, not against them, in order to improve the welfare and conditions for Australian farm animals," RSPCA president Hugh Wirth said in an e-mailed statement. \nThe lack of support from animal welfare groups in Australia has not deterred PETA from waging public protests against retailers who stock products made from Australian wool. \nIn October, American fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch -- which had 700 stores and net sales of US$1.7 billion in 2003 -- agreed not to buy Australian wool after PETA planned a campaign against the firm. \nAustralian wool sellers dismissed the boycott, saying the firm did not buy a substantial amount of wool. \nThe organization has now set its sights on Italian clothing giant, Benetton, which has resisted pressure to join the boycott. \nIn a statement on the company's Web site, Benetton said it was satisfied that Australian wool producers were taking steps to phase out mulesing, and denounced PETA's campaign as "unjustified and defamatory." \nWool producers in Australia, meanwhile, plan to go to court next month, seeking an injunction to block PETA from "threatening" retailers.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
CAUTION: Taiwan had zero cases of death from food poisoning for six years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, an FDA official said The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption. The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed. That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people. Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters