Mulesing deadline delay slammed

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 28 July 2009

Peak animal welfare organisation Animals Australia today slammed the decision of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to abandon its 2004 commitment to phase out mulesing by 2010.

Animals Australia Executive Director Glenys Oogjes said:
AWI through failing to keep its word has destined millions more lambs to endure the pain of mulesing and sent a clear message to international retailers that it cannot be trusted and that it is happy to cling to its bloody ways.

Wool industry leaders have pandered to farmers who have dragged their feet over the past 5 years. The only long-term sustainable solution is breeding for less wrinkle-skinned sheep. Those farmers who have done the right thing and bred selectively to eliminate mulesing by 2011, will sadly be caught up in the inevitable international backlash from wool buyers.

Cutting the skin from the backsides of conscious lambs is abhorrent. For AWI to claim its backflip is based on ensuring ‘optimal welfare’ of Australian sheep is as outrageous as it is false. AWI’s so-called science about the likely resultant deaths from flystrike if the 2010 mulesing deadline proceeds is nothing more than scaremongering.

Selective breeding, crutching, insecticide use and old-fashioned monitoring can reduce flystrike risk without this terrible mutilation, concluded Ms Oogjes.

Mulesing is where shears (similar to gardening shears) are used to slice skin from the buttocks of lambs to produce a scar free of wool, faecal/urine stains, and skin wrinkles. Over 10 million merino breed lambs are mulesed each year as a measure to reduce breech flystrike. Most will have their tail cut off and the males will be castrated at the same time. The only estimates available indicate that flystrike kills some 3 million sheep annually with mulesing of lambs.

The mulesing deadline was announced after a meeting on 8 November 2004 in Sydney of the Australian Sheep and Wool Industry Taskforce (which included AWI). A copy of the media release is available on request. It came in the face of a threatened boycott of Australian wool by major international clothing retailers after learning of the cruelty of mulesing via US-based PETA.