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NZ plans to ban sheep mulesing, while WoolProducers Australia wants a consumer awareness campaign + VIDEO

by Terry Sim, 20 April 2016


NEW Zealand is planning to ban surgical mulesing and tail-stripping of sheep except by a veterinarian.

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries has released its ‘Proposed Animal Welfare Regulations’ for public comment up to May 19 this year, potentially making it a prosecutable or criminal offence for anyone other than a veterinarian to mules or tail strip a sheep to reduce the risk of flystrike.

The MPI Discussion Paper 2016/12 claims there are significant reputational risks associated with the procedure that could damage overseas markets, proposing maximum fines of up to $5000 for an individual and $25,000 for a body corporate.

The NZ regulatory move is in stark contrast to the reaction of WoolProducers Australia, whose chief executive officer Jo Hall told Sheep Central an effective education and awareness campaign with consumers around the long term animal welfare benefits achieved by mulesing should be pursued. However, WoolProducers has now called for all Australian wool, regardless of its mulesing status, and including crossbred types, to be sold with an AWEX National Wool Declaration.

“In a practical sense this move by NZ regulators does not amount to much as there is little to no need for NZ wool growers to mules due to a number of factors including climatic and entomological, it has therefore never been a widespread husbandry practice in that country,” Ms Hall said.

AWI highlights $33 million spent on blowfly strike research

When asked several questions on the NZ move, Australian Wool Innovation’s corporate communication manager Marius Cuming said AWI is the research, development and marketing body for the Australian wool industry.

“Since 2005 it has invested $33 million alone in protecting sheep against blowfly strike.

“AWI highlights the option of pain relief, has invested in pre-analgesia and champions the use of the National Wool Declaration for woolgrowers to declare their practices and for the world’s buyers to reward it.”

Mr Cuming refused to directly answer a series of questions on whether AWI was concerned or believed the NZ move could damage the competitiveness of Australian wool, and whether Australia should also consider prohibiting mulesing or do more to build credibility with world consumers concerned about animal welfare.

Although it is believed that some New Zealand sheep producers still tail strip some sheep, the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries discussion noted that the NZ Merino industry decided that surgical mulesing would cease by December 2010. Only wool from non-mulesed wool is accepted for NZ Merino’s ZQ Merino marketing program.

Australia produces ‘the best Merino wool in the world’

Ms Hall said it is widely acknowledged that Australia produces the best quality Merino wool in the world.

“Unfortunately what is not acknowledged by the trade is the huge advancements that Australia has made in this area.”

The voluntary uptake of pain relief by Australian wool growers is a huge success story for the industry which should be commended, with AWI claiming pain relief is applied to the majority of all lambs mulesed, she said.

“Processors need to consider what the most important qualities of wool are for their business, including quality and quantity, if this is what they are after, this is what Australia can provide better than any other country in the world.

“There is increasing noise coming from customers about the need for wool that has pain relief applied,” she said.

She said although premiums are not being realised in the trade, Australian wool growers are demonstrating their commitment to animal welfare by the voluntary use of pain relief.

All wool should be sold with an NWD

Ms Hall said a correctly completed National Wool Declaration assists the supply chain in knowing what is being produced in Australia.

“WPA wants to see all wool regardless of mulesing status, including cross bred types, put up for sale accompanied by an NWD.

“If our customers want unmulesed wool or wool with pain relief applied, the NWD is the mechanism for the market to pay for what they are demanding, which logically should help maintain market share for Australian wool.”

Ms Hall said with Australian production systems it is unrealistic in parts of the country to stop mulesing and current individual state legislation reflected this.

“Mulesing is not banned and nor should it (be).”

“The reality is mulesing is a once for life procedure that enables long term protection against flystrike.

“This protection is a far better welfare outcome for sheep than an agonising death by flystrike.”

Ms Hall said the Australian industry views breech strike prevention as its number one priority, with $33million being invested by growers in this area alone since 2005.

“An effective education and awareness campaign with consumers around the long term animal welfare benefits achieved by mulesing should be pursued.”

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries will hold a series of public meetings on the proposed regulations over the next two weeks. It will analyse submissions, produce a summary and make the summary available on its website, and expected regulations to be made by the end of 2016. The proposed regulations also set down standards stipulating that sheep over six months of age must be tail-docked by a veterinarian or vet student under supervision with pain relief and tails must not be docked flush.

Visit www.mpi.govt.nz/animalwelfarefeedback to read the proposed NZ animal welfare regulations.

Click here to read AWI’s research, development, extension and communication strategy on breech flystrike prevention.

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