More than 220 brands and retailers back non-mulesed wool

Sheep Central, June 28, 2023

Mulesed Merino lambs with their mothers, Image – The Livestock Collective.

MORE Australian and international garment brands are committing to using non-mulesed wool, according to an updated Better Wool Guide launched by Humane Society International Australia today.

HSI Australia is encouraging consumers to take action by calling on Australia’s agriculture ministers to introduce legislation to phase out mulesing by 2030. The organisation is also inviting any retailers interested in being part of the guide to get in touch.

HSI Australia’s downloadable ‘Better Wool Guide’ highlights 221 brands available to Australian consumers with a commitment to remove mulesed wool from their supply chains, with many already claiming to be mulesing free.

The guide lists retailers/brands in two tiers. Tier 1 companies are already 100 percent non-mulesed with verification partly or exclusively through a robust certification scheme (such as the Responsible Wool Standard, ZQ Merino, NATIVATM, or equivalent), or have a time-bound commitment to be fully non-mulesed with verification partly or exclusively through a robust certification scheme.

Tier 2 retailers/brands are those that are committed to phase out mulesed wool but with no timeline or certification scheme specified, or are committed to phase out mulesed wool, but relying on verification through a less robust certification scheme.

HIS Australia said today’s launch signals the continuing shift in the animal welfare expectations of Australian consumers, with 75 more brands included since the last edition of the guide released last year.

Newcomers include iconic Aussie brands Koala, Spell, Afends and Zulu & Zephyr. They join the Country Road Group, Gorman, Target, Big W, The Iconic, David Jones, H&M and Myer. Big name brands like Big W, Aldi Australia, VF Corporation, Levi Strauss & Co, Adidas and Nike have strengthened their commitments since the last edition of the Better Wool Guide and now rank in Tier 1, HSI Australia said.

It is estimated more than 10 million Merino lambs are mulesed in Australia annually, with about 1 in 10 Australian wool growers producing non-mulesed wool through the breeding of plain bodied sheep.

New Zealand banned the practice in 2018 and Australia is the only country where mulesing is till done, exposing the Australian wool industry to increased global reputational risk.

HSI Australia’s animal welfare campaigner Georgie Dolphin said Australia is “well and truly” singled out as the only country in the world supplying mulesed wool.

“Aussie consumers and retailers alike are making it clear they are calling time on this practice.

“The conversation on mulesed wool has shifted dramatically in recent years, so it’s encouraging to see so many brands becoming more public about their opposition and supporting a kinder solution,” she said.

HSI Australia said increasingly, brands and retailer groups are setting time-bound commitments to phase out mulesed wool, verified through robust certification schemes such as the Responsible Wool Standard, ZQ Merino, and NATIVA TM .

Some brands such as Surya, Neem London, and JOOP! have gone one step further by avoiding Australian wool altogether, sourcing their Merino wool exclusively from countries that can guarantee mulesing-free wool, HIS Australia said.

“With so many brands ditching mulesed wool by 2025 or 2030, it is a strong market signal that the days of mulesing lambs are numbered,” Ms Dolphin said.

“It’s time to protect sheep from flystrike by breeding plain bodied flocks that don’t attract flies.

“And the sooner we see legislation in place to fast-track this progress, the better for both the welfare of lambs and the Australian wool industry’s reputation,” Ms Dolphin said.

Cowra non-mulesed sheep producer Doug Wright said people are demanding ethically produced product.

“As it is possible for all Australian wool growers to use plain bodied sheep, then why don’t more do it? It’s a logical process.

“When it comes to transitioning your flock to plain bodied sheep – it’s more achievable than it’s ever been,” he said.

“The work’s been done and the genetic pool is there. I work with breeders who’ve been breeding mules-free sheep for over 20 years.”

White Gum Wool owner Nan Bray said it’s past time Australian wool growers who still mules lambs made a start to transition their flocks.

“There are many tools available to help them with this process, plus a growing number of wool producers to learn from who have successfully accomplished it.”

The 2023 edition of the Better Wool Guide is available for download here.


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  1. Michael Bull, June 29, 2023

    I made the conscious decision to start breeding a plain bodied, wrinkle-free easy care Merino over 15 years ago and would consider my flock to be exactly that now. Concerned that mulesing would be banned sooner rather than later, I started experimenting with not mulesing part of my flock around six years ago. At first I was very impressed with the results of the unmulesed sheep; however, this coincided with run of dry years. After the last three above-average years, I have experienced a very different outcome. For example, last October I treated 4000 Merino lambs, half mulesed and half not run together, with one highly regarded fly treatment. Shortly after I treated over 150 flyblown lambs in the unmulesd portion and less than 10 in the mulesed portion. A direct result of more stain on the former and less on the later.
    After discussions with some animal health experts, I am of the opinion that the procedure of mulesing lambs by a trained professional, with anaesthetic, is not only one of the best animal welfare procedures you could provide to a Merino sheep, but should be considered a higher standard of animal welfare than not mulesing.

  2. David McKenzie, June 28, 2023

    A simple solution in the short term is to change to meat sheep and not have to worry about shearing etc.

    In our experience, there was no discernible advantage in the price for our unmulesed wool, and at current prices, growing Merino wool is hardly viable anyway.

  3. Glenn Nix, June 28, 2023

    A word to the retailers: these vegans won’t buy your woolen products, they are not your customers. Why pander to them? Do you inform your customers what happens when sheep are struck? Do you tell them there is a shearer shortage and you can’t shear when you want to? How about jetting with some interesting chemicals made by companies that they enjoy protesting against?

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