Today there are over 1 billion sheep in the world! Australia is a major player in the wool industry and Merino sheep are the breed most often used for wool production on this continent. Sheep are complex, curious and social creatures, who sadly are often treated poorly. They are often mutilated without pain relief, treated roughly when being shorn, and can experience the horrors of being exported for slaughter, and then there’s mulesing.
What is mulesing?
Many producers in the Australian merino industry breed ‘wrinkled sheep’ because they are thought to produce higher volumes of wool. Unfortunately, these wrinkles provide the ideal conditions for fly larvae to grow, and this makes sheep particularly susceptible to a painful condition called ‘flystrike’ which occurs when flies lay their eggs, and larvae grow and feed on the skin and flesh primarily around the sheep’s hindquarters.
Nobody, including the sheep farmers, wants to see sheep suffer the pain of flystrike.
Thousands of Australian farmers are having great success with humane solutions. But many more resort to the cruel and outdated practice of mulesing which involves restraining lambs, usually 6-12 weeks old, on their backs in a metal cradle and using shears, similar to garden shears, to cut large folds of skin away from around their buttocks in an effort to create scar tissue which is less prone to fly strike. This extremely traumatising mutilation, is often undertaken without adequate pain relief and is currently performed on approximately 70% of Merino wool-producing sheep in Australia.1
What are we doing?
FOUR PAWS advocates for humane solutions:
- The use of flystrike resistant sheep breeds e.g., plain bodied sheep with no skin wrinkles
- Improved farming practices such as increased monitoring and crutching (shearing around the tail and between the rear legs of sheep)
- The use of preventative chemical treatments
We work directly with farmers, we assist with the development of animal welfare certification systems, such as the Responsible Wool Standard, and we fund research into humane solutions, see the report by BG Economics - ‘Towards a Non-Mulesed Future.’
Brands and consumers are a crucial component of the solution to ending mulesing, and together we are sending a signal that mulesing needs to end. Hundreds of thousands of people have called for an end to mulesing and, encouragingly, over 180 brands including Hugo Boss, Adidas, GAP, Kathmandu, Country Road Group and H&M, have now committed to stop using mulesed wool.
Mulesing has been banned in New Zealand and FOUR PAWS won't give up the fight until it no longer happens in Australia.
“Mulesing is no longer accepted by many of the retail brands…we must evolve to accommodate this change in sentiment.”
Chad Taylor, non-mulesing wool producer, Central West NSW, Australia