Mulesing motion wins wide support in NSW Parliament

Terry Sim, March 29, 2016
NSW MLC Mark Pearson

NSW MLC Mark Pearson

NEW South Wales’ parliament has unaminously passed a motion urging the state’s wool producers to provide pain relief when mulesing sheep and to breed for fly strike resistance.

The motion put by MLC Mark Pearson from the Animal Justice Party, was passed unanimously on March 24, with government, opposition and crossbench support.

The motion commended “the 80 percent of Australian wool growers” who are breeding sheep to be resistant to fly-strike by breeding out skin wrinkles or using pain relief when mulesing sheep. It also encouraged further research and development into additional pain relief products.

WoolProducers chief executive officer Jo Hall said the 80pc figure quoted in the motion was a success story for the Australian wool industry.

“It shows that producers are taking this issue extremely seriously.”

Mr Pearson was not available for comment today, but the motion comes as wool growers, processors and retailers become increasingly concerned about consumer and market perceptions of mulesing and current pain relief use levels.

The NSW motion was approved as the US-based Textile Exchange seeks feedback (before April 15) on its draft Responsible Wool Standard, which states that measures should be taken to prevent or control fly strike, yet mulesing is prohibited and farms with ceased mulesing status are accepted.

The draft RWS also required pain relief to be used on shearing injuries when available and a shearer should cease shearing immediately if a sheep suffers a severe cut or injury. Records of injuries must be kept and all shearers and contractors must sign a RWS declaration.

Animal welfare and mulesing research, the draft RWS and the IWTO’s Wool Sheep Welfare Guidelines are also expected to be discussed at the IWTO Congress in Sydney from April 4-6.

In its January 2016 Market Intelligence Report Australian Wool Innovation said 53.6 percent of all Australian wool lots are currently declared (Non Mulesed, Ceased Mulesing, Pain Relief, or Declared Mulesed), and the level of declaration continued to grow.

“Effectively, the National Wool Declaration category growth areas are NM and PR.

“CM is steady at 2pc, whereas Declared Mulesed is declining by 1.2pc pa, and non-declared is declining at 1.29pc pa (mirrors the rate of gain in total declared),” the report said.

“At present rates, 12.2pc of the clip is NM or CM, and this is projected to rise to about 14pc by 2018/19.

“While the rate of PR declaration is increasing (+2.1pc pa), the overall rate of PR declaration (21pc) remains short of the usage level indicated from grower surveys and product sales (55-70pc) and may reflect a lack of significant price premiums for declaration of PR status evident in the market to-date.”

A comparison of AWI breech surgery statistics for the 2013/2014 year and Tri-Solfen sales data for the 2014 Australian lamb marking season, released by Animal Ethics Pty Ltd last year, indicate that the percentage of Merino lambs on which the pain relief product was used during mulesing varied from as 16.26-81.89 percent. The state-by-state figures were: South Australia 81.89pc, Victoria/Tasmania 71.83pc, New South Wales 65.32pc, Western Australia 55.5pc and Queensland 16.26pc.

The full NSW Parliament mulesing motion read:

(1)  That this House commends the 80 percent of Australian wool growers who are:

(a)  breeding sheep to be resistant to fly-strike by breeding out skin wrinkles; or

(b)  using pain relief when mulesing sheep.

(2)  That this House encourages all wool growers to breed sheep to be resistant to flystrike and, in the interim, they should provide pain relief to sheep when mulesing.

(3)  This House congratulates:

(a)  industry for investing in the development and promotion of pain relief solutions for mulesing and encourages further research and development into additional pain relief products

(b)  world renowned fashion designers who are encouraging wool growers to breed sheep that are less susceptible to flystrike and to adopt best practice animal welfare outcomes.



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  1. Keith Masters, March 31, 2016

    Many of the commentators have failed to notice that this motion was passed unanimously – including by Liberals, Labor, Greens and Nationals. Many who voted for the motion have direct experience in the industry as owners, shearers and farm workers. Read their honest and personal accounts of animal suffering. The motion does not go far enough. How is it ever morally acceptable to cause harm or injury to another being just to make a dollar? If you run thousands of sheep then there is no way that their individual welfare can be managed. Just reading the above comment about “damaged vulvas” and “deviated urine streams” makes me sick to my stomach.

  2. jan mc mahon, March 30, 2016

    It is almost impossible to get through to farmers about the horrors of mulesing, because they have been mutilating animals as part of their business model for over 200 years. You only have to read the comment by G. Nix to realise that they have no interest in animal welfare; all they care about is how much money they can make with the smallest amount of input. Its called greed.

  3. James Jackson, March 30, 2016

    Why can’t some of these politicians and wool buyers get as excited about huge welfare issues like footrot, where NSW producers lead the world in reducing pain.
    With respect to mulesing – in some environments with some sheep mulesing is definately best practice and I would encourage producers to continue the operation, with pain relief if possible. Many mulesed sheep require fewer applications of chemicals to prevent fly strike. These chemicals can pose significant risks to our excellent reputation with regard to chemicals in our meat and wool products.
    I would also point out mulesing has a different definition in Australia to most of the sheep producing world. Modification of tail skin alone performed with shears is defined as mulesing in Australia. This is not the case in other countries.
    I am concerned the definition in Australia is leading to producers docking tails too short. Minor tail skin modification to prevent staining and fly strike in tails docked at the third joint is defined as mulesing. Many sheep that have been bred with large bare areas under the tail still benefit from some minor modifications to the tail skin to minimize staining and fly strike.
    Having spent a considerable time crutching sheep I can also attest that mulesed ewes are less likely to suffer damage to the vulva during the shearing and crutching process. This is especially relevant in Saxon types of Merino. I would remind readers a damaged vulva is a risk factor for fly strike. A damaged vulva can cause deviation in the urine stream and thus staining wool around the vulva area.
    I would encourage Mr Pearson to inform himself on issues of animal welfare now he is on the public payroll and to aid in the education of a woefully ill-informed Australian public.

  4. BARBARA HYATT, March 30, 2016

    It would be good if the figure was correct, but it is more like 20 percent using pain relief that does not actually work very well. Producers need to be looking at genetics and breeding plain-bodied sheep that do not require mutilations.

  5. Hasn’t anybody got the balls to tell the world that mulesing is is the kindest thing anyone can do for sheep? It has saved countless millions of ewes from an agonizing, tormented and cruel cruel death from maggots. The only time I haven’t mulesed I lost 30 percent of my maiden ewes during harvest. Our government DPI sheep adviser told us that the only thing you can not do is leave out mulesing. He was so right; for two seconds of discomfort can protect them for life. Full names required in future for reader comments please Kerry, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor.

  6. Glenn Phillip Nix, March 29, 2016

    I am happy to use Tri-Solfen, but the only way not to have fly strike in my climate and area is to run cattle, or put it back to trees. I’ll mules till people with guns come to stop me. The last person I need to give farm management advice is a bloody nurse from NSW.

  7. Nick McBride, March 29, 2016

    Let’s hope the NSW wool producers leaves this motion in Sydney and ignores the city-centric parliament from a group of politicians that represents the most urbanised population in the world. May the season save the farmers, because the politicians certainly won’t!

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