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Renewed Support For A Ban On Mulesing

Australia is the largest exporter of merino wool. It’s time for them to transition to humane practices.

John Roberts

CEO, Australian Wool Innovation

Level 6, 68 Harrington Street, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000

Dear Mr. Roberts,

It has been 18 years since the Australian wool industry committed in 2004 to respect the welfare of sheep by phasing out the practice of mulesing, and over a year since our initial petition calling for this commitment to be fulfilled. This Fall, MP Mark Pearson brought forward a petition to the New South Wales government demanding an end to mulesing in the wool industry. We once again join the call of brands, citizens and consumers alike for a ban on this inhumane and unnecessary practice.

Australia is the only place in the world where mulesing occurs, and 70% of all merino wool for the global clothing industry is produced there. 10 million lambs are subjected to this painful procedure every year, meanwhile alternatives are abundant, practical, and not only is the practice avoidable, it will ensure Australia remains globally competitive.

AWI must take ownership of this issue and take action immediately. Industry passivity has resulted in over a decade of this inhumane procedure and prior regulations are completely insufficient. A recently released national sheep producer survey indicated that 56% of the surveyed Merino producers mulesed their ewe lambs and 44% mulesed males. Australian guidelines state mulesing should be accompanied by pain relief where practical and cost-effective methods are available. Pain management for mulesing was applied by 92% of the Merino producers, however, only 8% of producers surveyed reported administering anesthetic in conjunction with an analgesic at mulesing. Even if pain relief was mandated, veterinary experts state that it is insufficient to ease the distress caused by mulesing and the practice is unacceptable.

As an industry leader, the facts should be clear to your organization:

Mulesing does not need to be the status quo. Numerous economical alternatives to mulesing exist, including the use of specialized fly traps, chemical treatments, and selective breeding.

New Zealand’s wool industry is prospering having banned mulesing in 2018 after gradually phasing the practice out since 2007. Though a different country with different regulations and supply chain considerations, New Zealand is still a proven prospering model for a ban.

Over 300 brands have denounced the cruel practice of mulesing. Banning this practice will ensure the Australian wool industry’s longevity as a dominant supplier and meet the need of evolving consumer expectations.

Moreover, merino producers are open to change and have already taken it upon themselves to phase out mulesing. A family business in New-South-Wales that’s been focusing on breeding Merino sheep since 1890 has made the change to breeding sheep with no wrinkles that are naturally more resistant to flystrike. These plain-bodied Merino sheep are also more comfortable in any Australian environment as well as more resilient and fertile. Shifting away from mulesing is not only the humane choice but it also means taking care of more profitable and resilient merino sheep.

A survey conducted by Humane Society International (HSI) that collates data from 97 Australian wool growers in different states, climate zones, and rainfall areas found that:

91.8% of wool producers believe animal welfare is improved by not mulesing sheep

83.5% say transitioning to an alternative solution is not costly

98% say not mulesing is important for their farm’s future profitability

These wool producers are further evidence that the industry has clearly progressed beyond a reliance on mulesing. Producers across the country are finding it not only possible but also profitable to end mulesing. They need your leadership to make this an industry standard.

Mr. Roberts, we call upon you and your organization to meet your previous commitment and phase out mulesing as soon as possible. In 2009, the leaders of the Australian wool industry backed out on their 2004 promise to phase out mulesing by 2010. Lead this reversal by uniting producers, consumers, and shareholders and join New Zealand and Europe’s industry at the cutting edge of true wool innovation.

We and our community believe in a better future for the wool industry. We are on the cusp of a natural fiber renaissance led by more environmentally and socially conscious consumers that demand action to create a world of humane, sustainable wool production, where non-mulesed wool is the new status quo.

It is time for action. Join us.
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