One of the world's largest clothing retailers has slapped a ban on Australian wool after pressure from a US animal rights group.
Sweden-based H&M, with 1,500 stores in 28 countries, will source wool from nations other than Australia after the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) complained the Australian wool industry had "reneged" on a promise to phase out mulesing sheep by 2010.
Mulesing is a now controversial technique used by Australian farmers to prevent agonising and fatal flystrike by cutting skin from around a sheep's rear end.
PETA claims mulesing is cruel because it is performed without painkillers.
"Our new position is to start immediately to look for non-mulesed (wool) alternatives," Ingrid Schullstrom, head of environment & corporate social responsibility at H&M, wrote in an email to PETA.
"We will look for other countries of origin than Australia, and we will investigate any certifications or other ways to prove that merino wool from Australia originates from farms that are not practicing mulesing."
H&M is Europe's second largest fashion retailer and with stores located around the globe, has annual revenue of $A10 billion.
Australian pop star Kylie Minogue headed an advertising campaign last year to promote a new H&M swimwear line.
"We commend H&M for adding its name to the growing worldwide effort to stop mulesing", PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said.
"The company's decision will hasten the day when the Australian wool industry is seen as nothing more than lamb mutilators and sheep abusers."
PETA and the Australian wool industry has been locked in a legal and public relations battle for five years over mulesing and the live export of sheep to the Middle East.
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