Animal activist group Four Paws says it is not trying to end animal agriculture with its latest campaign to end the practice of mulesing.
- Major clothing brands have publicly committed to transitioning away from mulesed wool by 2030
- Mulesing is an operation done in Australia to prevent flystrike but animal activists say its cruel
- Australia produces about 25 per cent of the world’s greasy wool
Recently Four Paws published an open letter signed by more than 30 clothing brands, including Adidas, Kathmandu and Patagonia, vowing to end their use of mulesed wool by 2030.
Mulesing involves surgically removing wrinkly skin from around the breech and tail area of a sheep to keep the area from being infested with blowflies, a condition that can result in a painful death for sheep.
However, more than 30 clothing brands have signed an open letter from animal activist organisation Four Paws, agreeing to phase out their use of mulesed wool by 2030.
“Mulesing as a long-term strategy is unacceptable … and while pain relief given pre-and-post-mulesing can help, it is normally only given post-mulesing which is not enough,” Four Paws’ Rebecca Picallo said.
‘Come to the outback to see flystrike’
However, Australian Wool Growers Association’s Robert McBride said it was far better for sheep to be mulesed than to experience flystrike.
“As an industry, we do our very best and there are people who purport certain issues with mulesing without coming to the outback to see the impact to sheep when a fly wave comes through,” Mr McBride said.
“If some other companies look elsewhere for their product, all we can say is that we are doing our best for animal welfare.”
WoolProducers Australia president Jo Hall said she was concerned that Four Paws may want to make animal husbandry impractical.
“Four Paws as an animal rights group has an agenda here,” she said.
“They’re probably a group that we won’t ever appease, and we probably won’t try to.”
Slow transition to end mulesing
Ms Hall said Australian wool producers were making the change to stop mulesing.
“The reality is there is an increase of producers looking to transition to non-mulesed wool and that’s reflected in industry surveys,” she said.
Ms Picallo said that Four Paws did not want to end animal husbandry.
“It always amuses me that the industry thinks we want to end their livelihood when we want to prepare them for the future,” she said.
“But seeing all the other positive developments gives us more confidence that the industry is actually more ready than ever to transition away from [using mulesing].”
Breeding wrinkle-free sheep
Baderloo Poll Merinos breeds merino sheep that do not need mulesing, and are sold to farmers for their breeding programs.
Stud principle Daniel Hammat said they transitioned away from sheep that needed mulesing.
“We didn’t feel we needed to do it, we phased out then [17 years ago],” he said.
“[Mulesing is] definitely a painful process, I don’t think I’d like it done to me.”
Australian Wool Innovation chair Jock Laurie said despite the interest in non-mulesed wool there was still plenty of demand for mulesed wool as well.
“Australia at the moment is producing about 300 million tonnes of wool a year,” he said.
“Obviously wool growers are not going to produce wool that doesn’t have a market, but those market signals — at the moment are very clear — they can sell their wool into the market.”
“By the same token, there are markets opening up in non-mulesed wool.”
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