As many as 17 organizations working on behalf of animal welfare have submitted a position paper regarding the ill practice of Mulesing and they urge the world governments to abandon the barbaric custom at any cost. The paper seems just but the wool industry is under serious pressure.
As the world’s largest supplier of wool, and an essential supplier of finer-gauge wool, the Australian wool industry is a valued partner for North American and European wool apparel retailers and brands.
With approximately 100 million sheep, Australia produces 25 percent of the world’s wool. In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are merinos, which are specifically bred to have wrinkled skin, which means more wool per animal.
This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. In order to prevent this condition, called flystrike, Mulesing is being practiced.
Mulesing is a controversial practice that involves the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the buttocks of a sheep to prevent flystrike. The National Farmers Federation says that Mulesing remains the most effective practical way to eliminate the risk of flystrike in sheep and that without Mulesing, up to three million sheep a year could die a slow and agonizing death from flystrike.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recognizes the welfare implications of mulesing of sheep. However, in the absence of more humane alternatives for preventing breech strike, the AVA accepts that the practice of mulesing should continue as a sheep husbandry procedure.
The animal rights organization, PETA, strongly opposes mulesing saying that the practice is cruel and painful. They claim that sheep can be spared of maggot infestation through more humane methods, including special diets and spray washing.