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Wool - Mulesing


FOUR PAWS wants to improve the lives of millions of sheep who are used to produce wool.
© iStock | John Carnemolla

Wool production is a major global industry, especially in Australia, where almost 74 million sheep live. [1] Unfortunately, many of these animals are at risk of a painful, and often fatal, condition called 'flystrike'.  

 

While some countries including New Zealand also experience flystrike, the risk in Australia is acute due to a combination of factors.


In an attempt to maximise wool productivity, many merino sheep have been purposely bred to grow excessive skin and a high volume of wool. This has created an animal who is highly wrinkled, carrying excess skin folds, and wool around the hindquarters, an area prone to retaining moisture, urine and faeces. As a result, this creates ideal conditions for blowflies and a major cause of flystrike.

 

To reduce the incidence of flystrike, the intensely painful mutilation practice of ‘mulesing’ was developed by the industry.

Despite over a thousand Australian producers successfully managing flystrike without relying on this painful procedure, the use of mulesing remains widespread for millions of lambs throughout Australia today.[2],[3]

 



© The wrinkly vs. smooth sheep skin types. Image courtesy of Dr. Jim Watts of SRS Merino.

What is 'mulesing'?

Mulesing is the procedure whereby a lamb is restrained upside-down in a cradle, while parts of their skin around the buttocks and tail are cut away with a pair of metal shears.

The procedure leaves an open wound. After healing, scar tissue is formed which is free of wool, therefore reducing the risk of flies laying their eggs in this area. The procedure is performed on millions of lambs throughout Australia annually, without any form of pain relief. Importantly, even when pain relief is applied, it generally provides only limited and short-term relief for the animal. 

With viable tried and tested alternatives available, FOUR PAWS strongly advocates for an end to mulesing.

You can help! Sign the FOUR PAWS petition to help end mulesing today.

 

Alternative practises to mulesing include:

  • Transitioning to more flystrike resistant sheep types – e.g. plainer body sheep with reduced skin wrinkle,

  • Increased monitoring and crutching (the removal of wool from around the tail and between the rear legs of a sheep); and

  • The use of preventative chemical treatments.

 

Encouragingly, the use of alternatives is growing in demand by brands and retailers who sell Australian wool. Over 100 brands have now committed to ending sales of mulesed wool and many are actively seeking mulesed-free wool.



© Image: ABC Rural | Anthony Pancia

What is FOUR PAWS doing about mulesing?

  • FOUR PAWS is building consumer awareness of mulesing, and is working to mobilise change in key wool markets.
  • FOUR PAWS actively engages with stakeholders to advocate for higher sheep welfare standards in farming, such as non-mulesed wool.
  • FOUR PAWS aims to achieve the highest possible requirements for farming practices, and the treatment of sheep around the world.

What can you do about mulesing?

  • Sign the FOUR PAWS petition to help end mulesing today.
  • Make responsible clothing choices. If you buy less, but of higher welfare or alternative materials, e.g cotton, linen or recycled wool, you can reduce animal suffering. 
  • If you have decided to wear wool, it is important to actively seek brands which ensure the wool they use is certified ‘mulesed-free’ or recycled wool. 
  • You can also help by raising awareness of mulesing, and sharing this page with your friends.


References

[1]
 https://www.wool.com/market-intelligence/sheep-numbers-by-state/

[2] https://www.wool.com/on-farm-research-and-development/sheep-health-welfare-and-productivity/sheep-health/breech-flystrike/monitoring-progress/

[3] https://hsi.org.au/blog/end-to-mulesing-stymied-by-vested-interests


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