Mulesing deadline delay

Australian Wool Innovation's decision to abandon the 2010 mulesing phase-out deadline means another pain in the backside for millions of sheep...

PUBLISHED ON: 28 July 2009

In July, Australia's wool industry leaders announced they would abandon a commitment to cease mulesing by the end of 2010. Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) claimed that alternatives to mulesing were not sufficiently developed, that sheep would be left vulnerable to flystrike or alternatively that sheep farmers would leave the industry.

Animals Australia rejects the AWI decision. A recent meeting with AWI board members and its researchers only confirmed our view that alternative measures can provide similar flystrike protection to unmulesed sheep.

Each year 20 - 30 million lambs endure the pain of mulesing; shears are used to cut skin from lambs' behinds to reduce the risk of future flystrike. Studies show that pain caused by this large open wound lasts for at least 3 weeks. Whilst AWI is claiming that this year half of the mulesed lambs will have topical analgesia sprayed on the wound immediately after mulesing, this lasts just 8 hours!

The AWI backflip panders to farmers who have been resistant to any change to this circa 1930s abhorrent practice. Whilst the best preventative measure for flystrike is breeding for less-wrinkled sheep, many farmers have failed to commence that selection process over past decades, nor even since the deadline announcement in 2004. Other existing alternatives include more frequent crutching and inspection of sheep, and the use of long-lasting insecticides. AWI research is developing at least two other mulesing alternatives, to be available likely before the end of 2010.

Retailers in Europe, USA and China alerted to the cruelty of mulesing by a focussed PETA campaign, have been perplexed by the AWI backflip, and wool from mulesed sheep is likely to be shunned. Despite being lobbied by wool-growers during a recent visit to Australia, buyers from UK Marks and Spencer stated they will not be using mulesed merino wool in its menswear range after 2010.


What You Can Do

The most powerful message each of us can send to the wool industry is that caring consumers and community members will not support animal cruelty. If you choose to buy wool products, enquire of the retailer whether the wool is ethically sourced (from sheep that are not mulesed — as a minimum!).

Show Australia's decision makers that the Australian public is appalled by the Australian wool industry's cruel treatment of animals. Use the following key points to compose a letter to the editor of your local paper:

  • Mulesing, which involves cutting skin from the backside of an animal without pain relief is cruel and outdated.
  • Whilst the Australian wool industry continues to mules sheep, factory farm sheep for 'ultra-fine' wool and export live animals, they taint Australia's international reputation.
  • Retailers throughout Europe have boycotted Australian wool from mulesed sheep in response to consumer concerns about animal cruelty.
  • In the past the Federal Government has unquestionably backed the wool industry. It's time for the Australian government and the wool industry to wake up to the fact that Australians and the international public alike, will not tolerate animal cruelty.

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