The Australian wool industry is attempting to counter negative publicity and train workers by launching a national mulesing assurance programme.

Mulesing is the removal of wrinkled skin from the backside of lambs to reduce wool growth and lower the incidence of flies laying eggs on the animal.

In the past Australian wool has been boycotted by large US retail outlets after threats by animal rights campaigner PETA.

The group claims mulesing is cruel and inhumane.

About 1200 mulesing contractors are expected to attend training sessions planned by Australian Wool Innovation and Wool Producers by the end of the year.

The mulesing debate has lead to the introduction of a spray by Bayer which dulls the pain the animals feel during the process and for a genetic search for lambs with less of the wrinkled skin.

Secretary of the assurance programme, Charlie De Fegely, says the wool industry wants to show it has ethical standards and that animals are being treated humanely.

“I’ve even heard of some contractors paying for their producers to do it simply because they want to have best practice and they don’t want to be part of holding the industry back,” Mr De Fegely told journalists.