Due to the fact that the majority of Merino wool production occurs in Australia, the focus will be on the Australia regulations and conflicts within the Australia wool industry.

Animal cruelty laws in Australia are both state and territory specific as well as federally mandated. The federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry states that people who are responsible for the animals must “take action to alleviate unnecessary pain”.³  Some of these preventative measures, while controversial, are considered acceptable according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) as these preventative measures are done to prevent greater pain and suffering.² Current animal cruelty laws are directed towards deliberate acts of causing pain towards the animal and are generally not including accepted farm practices – which includes the practices of mulesing, tail-docking and shearing.³

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – The Sheep, 2nd Edition is a voluntary code of practice and is accepted by the wool industry on the national level.¹ The Code of Practice states that “appropriate preventative measures should be used for sheep for disease that are common in a district or likely to occur in a flock”.¹ The Code of Practice also outlines methods for shearing, tail-docking, acceptable mulesing techniques as well as housing for the sheep, general animal management and also how to properly euthanize the animal to prevent prolonged suffering.¹

While the Code of Practice is entirely voluntary for the sheep handlers, it has been referenced in court cases regarding animal cruelty.³ One of the primary conflicts in the Australian wool industry is mulesing – which is not considered an act of animal cruelty when it is carried out by the standards set by the Code of Practice.³ The Code of Practice details how many cuts should be done, methods to provide a sterile environment and how to handle the lambs during the surgical procedure.¹

Photo by Flickr user Chronanor.

¹ Primary Industries Ministerial Council 2006 Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – The Sheep, 2nd Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

² RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base. Aug. 2 2011. What is mulesing and what are the alternatives? Available at: Accessed March 20 2012.

³ Sneddon, J. and Rollin, B. 2010. Mulesing and Animal Ethics. J. Argric Environ Ethics 23: 371-386

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