Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

Animal welfare bodies lobby brands and consumers on mulesing

Sheep Central, October 2, 2020

ANIMAL welfare bodies FOUR PAWS and Humane Society International have stepped up their campaigns against mulesing by publishing the names of brands and retailers opposing the sheep flystrike preventative procedure and appealing for consumer support.

Humane Society International has launched its Better Wool Guide that lists the brands with policies against mulesing, or commitments to phase it out, to help consumers avoid buying wool from sheep subjected to mulesing.

As the same time, as part of its global Wear it Kind campaign to raise animal welfare standards in fashion, FOUR PAWS released a list of 185 fashion brands that have taken a stance against mulesing, claiming it as evidence that Australia’s wool industry must listen to their customers and prepare for a non-mulesed future, or risk being left behind.

HSI’s animal welfare program manager, Georgie Dolphin, said consumers and brands are driving the demand for progress in animal welfare.

“Today we are celebrating their choices which I’m sure will soon bring an end to painful mulesing in Australia.

“The genetic solution is increasingly being recognised as the best way to manage flystrike and end mulesing, solving two major animal welfare issues which cause considerable suffering to millions of Merino sheep every year.”

HSI and FOUR PAWS are united in their opposition to mulesing and their call for an industry wide transition to the genetic solution to mulesing and flystrike. Last month they released a BG Economics report, ‘Towards a Non-Mulesed Future’, that showcased the financial and animal welfare success of wool producers who are breeding flystrike-resistant sheep instead of mulesing.

Ms Dolphin said the practice of mulesing young lambs casts a dark shadow over Australia’s wool industry.

“The only way to end the mulesing debate is to end mulesing, and there’s a viable and profitable solution available to wool growers right now.

“Thanks to animal welfare conscious consumers and brands who are driving progress, mulesing will fast lose its social licence and become a practice of the past, sparing millions of lambs from unnecessary suffering,” she said.

“We commend brands in the Better Wool Guide for aligning their animal welfare policies with consumer sentiment and the production of more welfare-friendly, better wool.”

Momentum against mulesing is growing

FOUR PAWS said the momentum of brands moving away from mulesed sheep wool is growing.

FOUR PAWS has found that 185 brands now oppose mulesing, and 121 of these state they do not currently accept mulesed sheep wool, or wool from Australia, and 68 have stated their use of robust certification systems, making commitments to help achieve more traceable supply chains.

Outdoor brands like Patagonia, Ortovox and Kathmandu are already completely mulesed-free certified, and therefore leading with their progress.

Head of product innovation and sustainability at Kathmandu Manu Rastogi said the brand expects our suppliers to treat all animals in the supply chain humanely and with respect.

“Mulesing is inhumane, and we see using mulesed-free wool as a means to recognize and reward farmers for doing the right thing.

FOUR PAWS Australia head of programmes and brand engagement Jessica Medcalf said the body’s research demonstrated there is a huge mass of brands that don’t want wool from mulesed sheep in their supply chains.

“Both the demand for non-mulesed wool and the distinct message that mulesing must end is certainly growing louder.

“With demand for ethical fashion on the rise, the Australian wool industry must work together to make a bold and proactive plan to phase out mulesing, both for the animals and to avoid losing further business to other markets.”

FOUR PAWS said concern from brands specifically about the Australian wool supply chain was noted by its researchers.

“Wool from Australia is considered to be the highest risk as the use of surgical mulesing is widespread.” – Marks and Spencer, which sources New Zealand RWS certified wool.

“Due to the widespread practice of mulesing sheep in Australia, we don’t use Merino wool sourced from Australia.” – New Look Group, UK fashion brand with 500+ stores and ships to 66 countries.

FOUR PAWS said traceability and certification initiatives like the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) are increasingly relied upon by brands to help meet animal welfare needs and improve transparency in their supply chains. FOUR PAWS is urging brands to utilise robust certification initiatives comparable to the RWS when selling wool and is encouraging consumers wanting to ditch mulesed wool to avoid products where labelling regarding mulesing status is unclear.

Retailers like H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch, as well as fashion brands such as Witchery and Politix are among those committed to become certified by a credible third party in the next few years.

Jennie Granstrom, a business expert within animal welfare, material ethics and biodiversity at the H&M Group said the group does not tolerate animal abuse.

“We only buy from suppliers that guarantee mulesing-free Merino wool.

“H&M Group aims to ensure that by 2022 all our wool is either certified by Responsible wool standard or comes from recycled sources.”

Ms Medcalf said after decades of outrage over the practice, still only 14 percent of Australian wool producers declare their wool as non-mulesed.

“Brands can help to encourage a greater rate of industry change, by setting time-bound targets to transition their supply chains away from the practice.

“There is no excuse for mulesing, or the sourcing of mulesed sheep wool to continue long-term,” she said.

FOUR PAWS list of brands standing against mulesing can be found here .  FOUR PAWS has also launched a petition for consumers to call on more brands to take a stand on mulesing. Click here to read the HSI Better Wool Guide.



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