Young lamb

Mulesing Alternatives

FOUR PAWS recommends sheep friendly opportunities


Did you know that every year millions of lambs are subject to cruel mutilations for our clothing?

This mutilation is called mulesing. A process where a lamb (usually two to ten weeks old) is restrained upside down in a cradle to cut off skin folds around the buttocks and tail with a pair of metal shears. The procedure leaves an open wound and, after healing, a bare area where no wool grows. The procedure is performed on millions of lambs mostly without any form of pain relief. Even when pain relief is applied, it only has limited and short-term effectiveness. There are pain-free alternatives to this mutilation! Instead of cutting off lambs’ skin folds, producers could resort to sheep breeds without excessive wrinkles.

Mulesing was invented to reduce the risk of flystrike, which in itself is a severe welfare problem for sheep. A sheep is fly struck when the larvae of blow flies eat the sheep’s tissue, causing severe pain, inflammation, and eventually – when untreated – death. But there are pain-free full-body solutions.

Australia is the only country in the world where mulesing is practised. However, 80% of the global fine wool supply for the apparel industry comes from Australia, making mulesing a global issue fed by global consumer demand.

What are the alternatives?

The good news is that there are viable alternatives to mulesing available which have been used by well over one thousand Australian producers. These include:

  • the use of more flystrike resistant sheep types – e.g. bare breeched and plain bodied sheep with no skin wrinkles;
  • enhanced overall farming practices, increased monitoring and crutching (the shearing of wool from around the tail and between the rear legs of a sheep); and
  • the use of preventative chemical treatments.

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FOUR PAWS advocates for the above solutions to be adopted and strongly encourages Australian producers to prioritise shifting away from flystrike susceptible types to flystrike resistant types.

On the picture you can see a wrinkled sheep (left) and a plain bodied sheep (right).

Sheep in Australia

Brands and consumers are a crucial component of the solution to ending mulesing, and together we can send a signal that this practice needs to end. While only a few brands are 100 % certified mulesed-free including: Patagonia, Ortovox and Fjällräven, encouragingly, over 100 brands have spoken out against mulesing and want mulesed-free wool (Wool with a Butt). Responding to the growing demand for higher animal welfare within the clothing industry a rising number of brands like Jack Wolfskin, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch have committed to fully stop using mulesed wool in the coming years.

How can you help end mulesing?

  • Sign the petition to encourage brands to end sales of mulesed sheep wool.
  • Contact your favourite brands and politely let them know that you can’t wait to see mulesed sheep wool off their shelves!
  • Carefully consider your clothing options. If you have decided to continue wearing wool, it is important to actively seek brands which ensure the wool they use is certified ‘mulesed-free’.

FOUR PAWS has launched a guidebook on ‘why’ and ‘how’ brands are transitioning away from mulesed wool. 

Learn about brands and wool producers who have made the transition. Here you can view or download the guide (for free).

Transitioning away from mulesed sheep wool

Transitioning away from mulesed sheep wool

A guide for brands and retailers on why and how