Wool Trade

Animal charity opposes proposed mulesing declaration changes

Sheep Central, February 3, 2020

HSI Australia animal welfare program manager Georgie Dolphin

ANIMAL charity, Humane Society International, has joined the chorus of opposition to a proposal for two non-mulesed categories on the Australian Wool Exchange’s National Wool Declaration.

To finalise an NWD review by AWEX’s Industry Services Advisory Committee (ISAC), AWEX sought feedback before 31 January 2020 on two new mulesing status categories to replace the current non-mulesed or NM category. These were:

NM1: No sheep in this mob has been mulesed, and an alternative method to mulesing has not been used.

NM2: No sheep in this mob has been mulesed, and an alternative method to mulesing, such as freeze branding, clips or intradermal injections (Skintraction), has been used.

HSI Australia animal welfare program manager Georgie Dolphin said charity strongly objects to the two newly proposed categories for the NM status, NM1 and NM2.

“We believe that NM wool should strictly come from sheep that have not been subjected to any form of breech modification.

“These sheep have instead been selectively bred with resistance to flystrike across both their breech and their body, setting them apart and allowing them to fetch a premium in today’s market,” she said.

“It would be unjust to allow wool from mobs that have been subjected to an alternative breech modification to qualify as NM, effectively diluting its definition and de-valuing the NM category in the NWD.

“The NM1 and NM2 categories would also likely cause considerable confusion for customers and retailers sourcing genuine NM wool from sheep that have not had their bodies modified.”

Ms Dolphin said HSI appreciated that wool growers who use mulesing alternatives, such as liquid nitrogen application (also called sheep freeze branding and steining), are keen to categorise them separately from ‘mulesed’ (M), but it is likely to cause considerable confusion if they are able to share the ‘NM’ status.

The society has recommended for the Mob Mulesing Status categories on the NWD be as follows:

NM     Non-Mulesed

BM     Breech Modified

P A+   [see guide below]

M       Mulesed





HSI’s recommended guide for pain relief and anaesthetic acronyms.

“Ideally, it would benefit further if the Breech Modification (BM) method used was specified in the ‘Comments’ column for each mob number.

“This would ensure absolute transparency and integrity of the scheme for buyers around the world,” Ms Dolphin said.

“We also feel that the new ‘AA’ status code which they propose will replace ‘PR’ (pain relief) is a little misleading and would not provide enough relevant information to buyers or customers.

“We suggest for ‘AA’ to be replaced by ‘P A+’ where P=pain relief and A=anaesthetic,’ she said.

“The ‘+’ allows growers to indicate whether the anaesthetic was used pre or post-procedure.


HSI has also recommended for a definition of ‘pain relief’ and ‘anaesthetic’ to be included on the NWD.

NWD must be mandatory – HSI

Ms Dolphin said HIS also strongly recommended that the NWD to be made mandatory to offer more transparency to the industry as a whole, as well as likely leading to an improved completion rate.

“A significant increase in the number of audits completed is also warranted, with the priority being given to many more on-farm inspections.”

Ms Dolphin said HSI continued to support the transition towards the selective breeding of plain-bodied sheep to mitigate flystrike which is a viable and humane long-term solution.

“We believe that selective breeding to produce sheep which are resistant to all forms of flystrike is the most effective and achievable way for growers to end mulesing and prevent flystrike.

“We have encouraged AWEX to support this transition and believe that the recommendations we have outlined support their vision of a NWD that is trusted and recognised globally.”

Sheep Central has asked AWEX chief executive officer Mark Grave when a decision on the outstanding NWD NM category issue is expected.


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  1. Andrew Farran, February 3, 2020

    As understood, the issue is mulesing per se. It appears that breech modification, as distinct from mulesing, has entered the frame. If this could be acceptably defined that would better, to distinguish it from mulesing.
    Glib claims about breeding out the mulesing problem remain unsupported and overlook practical realities of varying climatic and grazing conditions – and the mighty fly.
    The quest for the perfect sheep to meet all parameters is on a par with the quest for the Holy Grail, and as elusive. If breech modification obviates the need for mulesing in more and more situations, it should of course be encouraged. If indeed it is not in fact mulesing, then the NM claim for it can be upheld.

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