The latest procedure touted as an alternative to mulesing, developed by Victorian vet Dr Steinfort, is not the solution says animal protection groups Humane Society International (HSI) and FOUR PAWS.
‘Steining’, also referred to by industry as sheep freeze branding, is a breech mutilation just like mulesing which uses liquid nitrogen rather than shears. Areas of skin are modified by freezing them to minus 50 degrees Celsius and over time degeneration causes the skin to contract and form a scar, resulting in bare areas that are less attractive to flies. It is essentially ‘freeze mulesing’, a term that textile and clothing brands are now using. HSI and FOUR PAWS say that selective breeding to remove the wrinkle which makes sheep so susceptible to flystrike is the best and most ethical solution to flystrike.
The most prominent and internationally recognised assurance schemes for animal welfare conscious buyers, including the Textile Exchange’s Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), the ZQ Standard, and the NewMerino Standard, have stated that they will not be supporting sheep freeze branding, or freeze mulesing, and will not classify wool from these sheep as ‘non-mulesed’. Most recently Authentico, the integrity scheme by Australia’s arm of international luxury fibre processor The Schneider Group, have also indicated they will not accept freeze mulesing.
“Currently there is no robust independent scientific evidence to prove that steining or ‘freeze mulesing’ does not cause significant pain. Alongside HSI and a growing list of brands, FOUR PAWS is opposed to wool from freeze-mulesed sheep being classified as ‘non-mulesed’,” said Jessica Medcalf, Head of Programs, FOUR PAWS Australia.
“We have highlighted this to AWEX (the Australian Wool Exchange) who are currently reviewing their National Wool Declaration (NWD), the scheme whereby producers classify their wool as mulesed or non-mulesed for buyers in the supply chain,” Ms Medcalf continued.
HSI and FOUR PAWS oppose breech mutilation because these painful methods can be replaced by breeding plain-bodied sheep with no wrinkles that are flystrike resistant and suit the challenging Australian climate.
“Selectively breeding the wrinkle from a flock is a pain-free solution which also protects the sheep from flystrike across all of the body, rather than just their breech area. With the right genetics it can be achieved within just 5 years or less,” said Ms Georgie Dolphin, Program Manager for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International.
“Literally millions of lambs are subjected to mulesing each year and shifting towards another form of breech mutilation is not the answer for modern farming. Selectively breeding plain-bodied sheep is the best solution to end both mulesing and flystrike. We have spoken to numerous wool growers across the country who have successfully made the transition to plain-bodied sheep and are reaping the rewards” concluded Ms Dolphin.
HSI and FOUR PAWS recently applauded Country Road Group and David Jones for announcing their time-bound commitments to sourcing non-mulesed wool. They join the ever-growing list of global brands and retailers who have already committed to moving away from mulesed wool.
For more information on mulesing and how you can help protect our wooly friends, see here.