Mo­hair sales soar de­spite video fall­out

Prices up as in­dus­try body acts against rogue pro­duc­ers, writes Shaun Gill­ham

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - E-MAIL YOURE VIEW TO week­end@ti­soblack­star.co.za

DE­SPITE a sig­nif­i­cant, but strongly con­tested dress­ing down by a global an­i­mal rights group early this month, South Africa’s mo­hair in­dus­try has beaten ex­pec­ta­tions and con­tin­ues to show solid growth.

The dress­ing down, which came from Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals (PETA) Asia in the form of a se­cretly filmed video, has rocked the Port El­iz­a­beth-head­quar­tered in­dus­try, along with ma­jor in­ter­na­tional fash­ion brands, after the footage sur­faced at the be­gin­ning of the month.

The in­dus­try body, Walmer-based Mo­hair South Africa, has shifted into high gear to ad­dress the video, which al­leges mis­treat­ment of An­gora goats on up to 12 mo­hair-pro­duc­ing farms.

How­ever, the or­gan­i­sa­tion which over­sees more than half of global mo­hair pro­duc­tion, re­vealed this week that it had iden­ti­fied two farms where mis­treat­ment of an­i­mals po­ten­tially oc­curred.

Both those pro­duc­ers were un­der­go­ing in­spec­tions and an au­dit which was ex­pected to have been com­pleted by yes­ter­day.

The two farms were iden­ti­fied after an as­sess­ment of the PETA video and are lo­cated in ei­ther the Eastern or the West­ern Cape where the in­dus­try’s around 1 000 mo­hair­pro­duc­ing farms are based.

The video is be­lieved to have been com­piled by an in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor pur­port­ing to be in­ter­ested in re­lo­cat­ing to the coun­try and in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the in­dus­try.

It could have se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the R2-bil­lion-a-year sec­tor and the about 30 000 liveli­hoods it sup­ports.

But con­trary to neg­a­tive ex­pec­ta­tions brought on by in­di­ca­tions that in­ter­na­tional brands such as H&M, Top­shop and Zara would phase out the use of the pre­mium fibre, the lat­est mo­hair auc­tion held in Port El­iz­a­beth on Tues­day pro­duced strong re­sults.

These in­cluded all fibre vari­ants be­ing sold at prices which were on av­er­age 3.9%, higher than the in­dus­try’s pre­vi­ous auc­tion.

Oth­ers sold at 4.4% and 5% higher than they did at the pre­vi­ous auc­tion.

In ad­di­tion, sell­ing prices have been steadily in­creas­ing over a num­ber of months and Tues­day’s auc­tion fielded a sales clear­ance of 98.9% of the avail- able stock on the day. In a se­ries of moves to ad­dress the is­sue, Mo­hair SA has con­tracted top in­ter­na­tional law firm Nor­ton Rose Ful­bright to en­gage with PETA.

Mo­hair SA spokesman Ri­aan Marais said: “We need PETA to help us to stop any an­i­mal mis­treat­ment.

“They have not con­tacted us at all, but we need to en­gage with them to es­tab­lish which farms they al­lege there was abuse and to get other in­for­ma­tion from them so that we can deal with it.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion had also con­tracted a top, global pub­lic re­la­tions agency.

Point­ing out that sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ments of the video had been taken out of con­text, Marais said the two farms be­ing au­dited had not par­tic­i­pated in this week’s auc­tion. A de­ci­sion on any ac­tion to be taken would be made after the au­dits and sub­se­quent re­ports.

“Our in­dus­try has in-house mech­a­nisms which in­clude the sus­tain­abil­ity guide­lines doc­u­ment and a sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer who con­ducts farm in­spec­tions.

“The in­spec­tions have been on­go­ing and around 450 farms have al­ready been as­sessed over the past two years.

“This process will now be speeded up. In ad­di­tion, in­de­pen­dent au­dits – in­clud­ing the au­dits of the two farms, are now be­ing con­ducted by qual­ity as­sur­ance en­tity, the South African Meat In­dus­try Com­pany,” he said.

Marais said it was also im­por­tant to note that mo­hair shear­ing was con­ducted only twice a year.

The shear­ing process – which was the main ac­tiv­ity cap­tured on the video – was nor­mally con­tracted out to shear­ing com­pa­nies by the pro­duc­ers and Mo­hair SA com­plied with all in­ter­na­tional norms and guide­lines.

Adding that, con­trary to re­ports, mo­hair pro­duc­tion had not been halted, Marais said it was vi­tal to shear the an­i­mals ev­ery six months due to the dan­gers overly long hair pre­sented to them.

These in­cluded their sight be­com­ing re­stricted and that they were prone to be­com­ing en­tan­gled in bushes and thorns, which could lead to an­i­mal in­juries, an­i­mals be­com­ing stuck and the pos­si­bil­ity of them starv­ing to death.

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