Take-home message

In summary, there are evidences that mulesing produces an acute stress and pain to the lamb that last for up to 48h with residual effects lasting for approximately 2 weeks after the operation.

The procedure is the best tool producers have for the moment to fight flystrike that are considerably worse for the welfare of sheep than the Mules operation. However, some alternatives are now available. Their respective efficiencies to prevent the strikes are not as high as mulesing efficiency but the same level of prevention could be reached by a combination of:

  1. procedures that aim to replicate some of the effects of mulesing by alterations in the breech;
  2. genetic selection for a breech that is less susceptible to flystrike;
  3. strategies targeting the sheep blowfly;
  4. precise timing of the sheep management.

This will require a heavier work from the wool producers and cost more. Therefore, even if their attitude toward the act of mulesing is quite negative, the farmers are not willing to change their practices. They feel little social pressure and believe few consumers are concerned about mulesing. However, they noted that they would change their practices is the societal concern about lamb welfare was more important.

The Australian Wool industry has developed a National Wool Declaration that allows the farmers to categorise their wool as

  1. From non-mulesed sheep
  2. From sheep mulesed with pain relief
  3. From mulesed sheep on a property where mulesing has ceased since then
  4. From mulesed sheep

The next steps in the prevention of mulesing are now at the consumer level: buying wool or wool-containing products can be done by specifically buying the wool that you consider as the more ethical one.

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