Progress in Australia: Economic study shows switching to non-mulesed sheep is a success
Wool producers see both financial gain and improved sheep welfare when adopting mulesing-free methods
Calls for ending the controversial practice of mulesing have re-ignited, following the launch of a new report Towards a Non-Mulesed Future by socioeconomic consulting firm BG Economics. The report highlights the success experienced by Australian wool producers across the country using genetics to battle flystrike, instead of the controversial animal mutilation practice of mulesing.
Mulesing causes lambs to suffer fear and stress, as well as acute pain for up to three days after being mulesed, while their wounds take weeks to heal.
While at least 14% of Australian wool producers no longer mules their sheep, it’s estimated more than 10 million lambs continue to be mulesed annually.
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This new report, commissioned by FOUR PAWS and Humane Society International (HSI), collates data from a survey of 97 Australian wool growers in different states, climate zones and rainfall areas, and shows that it is largely good breeding choices—genetics—that will enable industry to end its reliance on mulesing, without compromising the producers’ bottom line nor expose sheep to flystrike.
Put simply, wool producers can breed plain-bodied sheep without the wrinkle that causes issues, which attract flies. These sheep are resistant to all forms of flystrike protecting their whole bodies for life, completely negating the need for them to undergo mulesing or any other physical mutilation.
“Mulesing is no longer accepted by many of the retail brands... we must evolve to accommodate this change in sentiment," said Chad Taylor, non-mulesing wool producer, Central West NSW, Australia
To date, hundreds of thousands of people and over 150 brands globally have voiced their concern about mulesing, a concern which is only going to grow as people are increasingly interested in animal protection, and ethical fashion.
“The results show that nearly all wool growers have experienced increased financial benefits and the welfare of their animals is also improved,” said Dr Stephen Thornton, Principal Economist at BG Economics.
- 91.8% of wool producers believe animal welfare is improved by not mulesing sheep
- 77.5% of wool producers completed the transition to plain-bodied Merinos (flystrike-resistant sheep) within five years and 42.7% within two years
- 83.5% say transitioning to plain-bodied Merinos is not costly
- 84.1% have experienced an increased return on investment
- 86.6% would recommend to other woolgrowers to undertake the transition to plain-bodied Merinos
“The results speak for themselves. While for decades, there’s been concern around the costs of transitioning away from mulesing, and the extensive amount of time it would take, it’s now time to lay these to rest. Times have changed and producers across the country are finding it possible, and financially profitable, to end their reliance on mulesing.”
Jessica Medcalf, Head of Programmes FOUR PAWS in Australia
FOUR PAWS and Humane Society International (HSI) commissioned this report to better understand the realities of the genetic solution to flystrike, and the results are extremely positive.
Through this report, FOUR PAWS and HSI hope more wool producers will feel confident in making the transition away from mulesing, and we can end both mulesing and flystrike, once and for all.
Towards a Non-Mulesed Future
Selective Breeding to Counteract Flystrike in Australian Merino Sheep