We call on the Australian government to retract its provision of mulesing as an appropriate husbandry procedure in the new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep. We also call on Australian wool industry to reinstate its commitment to phasing out the practice of mulesing after having relapsed on its 2010 promise. In light of this history, it is particularly imperative that industry remains publically accountable to any commitments towards this goal.
While fly strike represents a significant animal welfare issue in terms of pain, disease and mortality, mulesing is an unjustifiably inhumane solution to addressing this serious issue in Australian sheep farming.
Mulesed lambs demonstrate acute pain responses lasting up to 48 hours and display long-term side effects indicative of pain for up to three weeks after the procedure. These include decreased socialisation; weight loss; behavioural changes such as prolonged standing, hunched postures and reduced feeding and lying frequencies.
The only viable, sustainable solution for controlling fly strike is a breeding and selection program for sheep that are both fly strike resistant and have reduced wrinkling, especially in the perineal region. These strategies should be implemented as part of an integrative farm management scheme with animal husbandry practices that include strategic timing of shearing and crutching and insecticide use, worm control to minimise scouring, regular flock inspection.
Alternative options that may be considered during the phase out period include the appropriate application of topical and long-acting anaesthetics, intradermal formulations, and clips. While these measures represent improvements on traditional mulesing practices, they still induce pain and stress responses in sheep and thus must only be used as a temporary solution.