Painful mutilations – the bloody business of sheep wool production
The wool business is thriving worldwide. The leading producers are Australia, South America, and New Zealand. As with most widely used animal-based products, wool production and sheep farming come with major animal welfare issues.
Mulesing: a cruel mutilation
'Mulesing' is a procedure during which strips of skin around a lamb's breech and tail are cut with shears, often without any pain relief. This painful procedure is practised in Australia to avoid Myiasis (Flystrike). Flystrike is the infestation of a live sheep's body by flies, that lay their eggs in the skin folds of the hind parts of the sheep. Flies are especially drawn to that part of sheep because it is soaked with moisture and faeces. The highly wrinkled Merino sheep that are bred in Australia are especially prone to flystrike because their wrinkles capture moisture for a longer duration than plain bodied sheep. 'Mulesing' does not adequately protect sheep against flystrike, as flies can attack other parts of a sheep's body ('bodystrike'). FOUR PAWS opposes "mulesing" and calls on brands and industry stakeholders to phase out the practice.
Read more about the transition away from mulesing here:
Transitioning away from mulesed sheep wool
A guide for brands and retailers on why and how
FOUR PAWS advocates responsible wool sourcing
The solutions are available. More than 1,000 wool growers in Australia have successfully transitioned to flystrike resistant plain or smooth-bodied Merino sheep, proving that mulesing is no longer necessary. Major suppliers can provide certified and reliably traced mulesing-free wool. FOUR PAWS asks the wool industry and especially brands to take responsibility for the welfare of the sheep in their wool supply chains. Brands must set and communicate their timelines for a phase-out of mulesed wool. A clear signal from brands will encourage their supply chains to transition away from mulesing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- If you plan to purchase wool products, please check the brand’s webpage or contact them to ask what steps they are taking to exclude wool from mulesed sheep and to make sure their wool products are mulesing-free.
- Sign our petition calling on brands to phase out mulesed wool: https://help.four-paws.org/en/sign-protect-lambs-mulesing
- The most animal-friendly decision you can take is not to purchase or use any wool at all. Check out all those great alternatives out there!
Appeal towards the brands
- For information on moving away from Mulesing, please refer to the FOUR PAWS Guidebook on “Transitioning Away from Mulesed Sheep Wool”, a resource combining science, brand insights, case studies from farmers that transitioned, as well as information on assurance schemes linked to mulesing-free wool.
- Check your wool supply chain and find out if your wool is mulesing-free or not.
- If your wool is mulesing-free, let everybody know about it! Your consumers are keen to see that you’re caring about the welfare of the sheep in your supply chain.
- Should you find out that you’re sourcing wool from mulesed sheep, start setting up a phase-out plan and communicate it in your policies and to your supply chain. Your demand for non-mulesed wool will trigger a big change for more animal welfare in sheep wool production!
- Feel free to get in touch with FOUR PAWS if you need any support.