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Campaign chief is a dyed in the wool sheep man
10:30pm Tuesday 23rd October 2012 in News
THIS week is British Wool Week, the centrepiece of the Campaign for Wool, an initiative spearheaded by Prince Charles but chaired by John Thorley, of Malvern.
The campaign promotes the use of wool globally, with the aim of getting acceptable prices for farmers and all sectors from farm gate to the end user.
As you don’t have to look far out of John’s office window to see sheep grazing in Worcestershire’s green fields, you could say he’s well located.
In fact, he is next door to the National Sheep Association, where he was chief executive for 40 years before retiring in 2006. So he knows his sheep and his wool – a real dyed-in-the-wool sheep man.
The Campaign for Wool is the second project John has been involved in with Prince Charles.
The first was the Mutton Renaissance, which saw him mix with celebrity chefs – an interesting experience, he recalls.
“The initial meeting took place at Highgrove with me and 23 worldfamous chefs,” he said.
“Jamie Oliver was on my right and Prince Charles next to him.
“Jamie leant over and whispered in my ear, ‘So what do you call him then?’ pointing at his royal highness!”
His latest project promotes the use of wool through activity and support from leading homeware and fashion firms such as John Lewis, Burberry and M&S.
It is designed to reignite Britain’s love affair with this unique material, a cause dear and vitally important to Worcestershire, with both the carpet industry and farmers having a vested interest in its success.
However, Britain’s love affair with wool has been on the wane. Ten years ago there were 21 million breeding ewes in the UK.
Today, that figure is down to 14 million.
Scientific selection has also been going on to identify and produce breeds of sheep that either shed wool naturally or have no wool at all.
Mr Thorley said: “Until recently, for a farmer in Worcestershire, wool was a ‘cost’ to the business.
“About 80 per cent of the shepherding costs were associated with wool and yet only three per cent of income was derived from the wool.
“We are now getting wool back into a position where farmers are taking a proper interest in it and we, the end user, will have a better product.
“If farmers stop producing it, it simply won’t be available. Although meat remains the dominant product from sheep, Worcestershire farmers are no longer reliant on it alone for the income.”