British farmers and consumers are concerned by Australia’s poor animal welfare standards as a free trade agreement is negotiated between the two countries, reports Humane Society International’s UK office. The UK’s red lines…
Australia is a major global producer of wool and we bear the sad distinction of being the only place in the world where mulesing still occurs. Merino sheep originally had smooth skin, with no wrinkles. But a breed was introduced in 1883 with folds of skin in order to yield more wool. Those folds, in combination with Australia’s warm temperatures and fly species, resulted in a serious condition called ‘flystrike’, where blowfly maggots infest the rear ends of sheep. To counteract the problem of flystrike, mulesing was developed by John Mules in 1931.
Flystrike is a serious problem and nobody wants to see sheep end up with painful fly infestations. But technology and genetics have come a long way since 1931, and roughly chopping off the flesh from lambs’ bottoms without pain relief is unacceptable. The painful and outdated practice of mulesing must end.
This problem was man-made through breeding wrinkly, flystrike-prone sheep in Australia. It can be solved through breeding as well, by selecting smooth-bodied sheep with no wrinkles that are resistant to flystrike, transforming the Australian wool industry within five years.
What we’re doing
HSI Australia has been leading the charge to end mulesing in Australia for over a decade. We’ve commissioned a report for farmers on the economic viability of transitioning to non-mulesed wool, to help stop mulesing at the source, in pastures across Australia.
We also inform the retailers and brands on the issue of mulesing and ask them to commit to sourcing only non-mulesed wool in their products. To date we have brought on more than 100 companies and featured them in our Better Wool Guide, a tool for consumers to support brands that have made a commitment to buy wool from suppliers who don’t mules their lambs.
The Better Wool Guide is available as a download to keep handy when you’re shopping, and to know which companies haven’t made the grade yet, so you can vote with your wallet. Download the Better Wool Guide here.
What you can do
Mulesing is largely a forgotten animal welfare issue in Australia, and it’s one you can help bring awareness to. With more than 10 million lambs affected by this painful procedure every year, this campaign can have a major impact for animals.
✔ If you’re buying clothing or any goods made from wool, download the Better Wool Guide and use it to make kinder purchases.
✔ Sign our petition to encourage retailers to refuse mulesed wool in their supply chains. If you don’t see your favourite brand on the guide, add their name to the petition so we can get in touch with them and encourage them to transition to non-mulesed wool.
✔ Share our campaign and our mulesing explainer video to help get the word out.
Retailers and brands sourcing better wool
Compassionate consumers are demanding an end to painful farming practices like mulesing, so more and more retailers and brands have set a timeline to phase out mulesed wool. More than 100 are featured in our Better Wool Guide which allows consumers to easily identify and support brands with a position against mulesing, as well as wool growers who are using the kinder solution of better breeding practices. Brands with the strongest policies on mulesing are listed with a 1st place position in our Guide, with a time-bound commitment and verification through robust certification schemes such as the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). Those in 3rd place have a publicly displayed position against mulesing. HSI has been working with many retailers and brands, assisting with their mulesing policies—we invite others to get in touch as we would be happy to assist with yours and advise on how to qualify to be listed in our Guide. We would love to support more retailers and brands who are keen to transition their supply chains towards better wool, and feature you in our Better Wool Guide soon!