Consumers are demanding better animal welfare, and some farming practices are just not acceptable anymore. One such practice is ‘mulesing’, carried out to prevent flystrike in sheep bred for wool. Both mulesing and flystrike cause animal suffering, but luckily there’s a better way. By breeding plain-bodied sheep that are flystrike resistant and don’t need to be mulesed, both can be avoided and the farmer can remain profitable. The genetic solution is a win for sheep and a win for wool growers!
A growing number of retailers and brands across Australia and globally are saying ‘no’ to mulesed wool, eliminating it from their supply chains. Some have made time-bound commitments to phase it out for good. Is your favourite brand part of this movement? Find out now by visiting our BETTER WOOL GUIDE where you can see their mulesing policy or statement for yourself. To help spare millions of lambs from unnecessary cruelty, please sign our #DontCutOurButts PETITION to encourage more Australian brands and retailers to commit to sourcing only non-mulesed, kinder wool.
Painful mulesing of lambs and flystrike both cause considerable animal suffering. The good news is that there is a better way to protect Merino sheep from flystrike than mulesing. Together, Humane Society International and FOUR PAWS commissioned the experts at BG Economics to produce an independent report named ‘Towards a Non-Mulesed Future’ to find out the true experiences of woolgrowers who have stopped mulesing by breeding plain-bodied flystrike resistant sheep.
The results are in, and they are extremely positive. The woolgrowers surveyed who have used the genetic solution are having great success, so it’s a win for woolgrowers and a win for sheep welfare. We hope the new report will encourage the wider uptake of this solution and that industry leaders will make it the priority, so we can soon see an end to mulesing across Australia.
Australia’s Merino sheep were originally smooth skinned, with no wrinkles or wool on their buttocks, but a breed was introduced in 1883 with folds of skin in order to yield more wool. This coincided with the arrival of a new fly species which, when coupled with our warm temperatures, resulted in a serious condition called ‘fly strike’. To counteract this problem, the cruel and unnecessary practice of ‘mulesing’ was developed by Mr John Mules in 1931 to reduce the incidence of fly strike.
Mulesing is a surgical procedure that involves slicing skin off the buttocks of Merina lambs to scar it and prevent flystrike. It is deemed a cruel and unnecessary practice by many, but affects between 13-20 million Australian sheep every year.
Technology has come a long way since then and fortunately there is a genetic solution to this painful practice which could potentially revolutionise the Australian wool industry. Through genetic selection, smooth-bodied sheep with no wrinkles that are resistant to flystrike and produce impeccable, top quality wool can be bred, transforming the Australian wool industry within five years.
It’s vitally important that the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the industry’s chief body, gets behind smooth-bodied breeders so that this procedure can be ended. Consumers and international wool buyers are applying pressure to end mulesing misery.
Humane Society International has worked closely with the Responsible Wool Standard to improve welfare conditions for sheep around the world and we work with retailers both overseas and in Australia. Global retailers H&M, Marks & Spencer, Next, Target and Tesco have already made commitments to move away or ban wool from mulesed sheep on welfare grounds. Global brands Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Kerring, Nike and Timberland have also made commitments to move away from or ban wool from mulesed sheep. Here in Australia many major retailers are already amending their Animal Welfare Policies and making time-bound commitments to source only non-mulesed wool including David Jones, Country Road Group, Kmart and Target. Luxury wool processers from Italy and other countries are increasingly rejecting mulesed Australian wool on welfare grounds.