Lamb Production

NSW Farmers’ sheep flocks back mandatory pain relief for mulesing

Terry Sim, July 12, 2019

MORE than 80 percent of sheep producers responding to a NSW Farmers survey have supported mandating pain relief for on-farm surgical mulesing.

A majority (82 percent) of the 609 producers who responded to the survey also believe mandating pain relief when sheep are mulesed is a somewhat effective to very effective strategy to retain the flystrike preventative practice.

The survey results have been welcomed by supporters of mandatory pain relief for mulesing as a means of retaining the on-farm surgical practice as an animal welfare strategy to reduce flystrike.

The results show that 70.47pc of respondents would support mandating pain relief through an industry-led initiative and 7.52pc would back government regulation. There was 16.71pc of respondents against mandating pain relief.

More than 72pc of the survey respondents are concerned about the practice of mulesing being banned, 16.35pc are not concerned and 6.97pc are unsure.

Just under 26pc (25.98pc) of the sheep producers in the survey believed mandating pain relief is a very effective strategy to retain the use of mulesing, 28.49pc believe it effective and 27.65pc see it as somewhat effective and 17.88pc see it as ineffective.

On whether making the NWD a compulsory condition of sale would be effective in enhancing the transparency of on-farm practices, 22.49pc said it would be very effective, 31.98pc said it would be effective, 30.89pc were in the somewhat effective category and 9.76pc of respondents said it would be ineffective.

Just over 66pc of the survey respondents mulesed their sheep and 34pc didn’t, and 90.5pc said they administered pain relief mostly (3.9pc) or always (86.15pc). More than 85pc said they completed the National Wool Declaration to nominate the mulesing and pain relief status of their wool.

The survey was conducted after NSW Farmers wool committee chairman Andrew Wood and WoolProducers Australia director resigned from the WPA board due to a conflict of interest on the issue of mandating pain relief for surgical mulesing. NSW Farmers members made up 89.49pc of the survey respondents and 10.51pc were non-members. About two thirds of the respondents said they were still mulesing sheep (66.01pc) and 33.99pc said they didn’t mules.

WoolProducers Australia late last year adopted a policy of mandating pain relief, initially with the support of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders and Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association. WPA is also seeking acceptance of the National Wool Declaration as a condition of sale for wool as a first step in driving NWD uptake.

NSW Farmers has a policy of strongly encouraging the use of pain relief when mulesing and has also lobbied for the National Wool Declaration to be a mandatory requirement of sale to drive uptake. A NSW Farmers spokesman has told Sheep Central retaining mulesing as an effective flystrike control method is fundamental to its policy.

However, Mr Wood received support after his resignation from the NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association, which with stud Merino associations in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, opposes mandating pain relief, although NSWSMBA president Drew Chapman supported mandating pain relief at a WPA health and welfare committee meeting last year. Leaders of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders and the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association have told Sheep Central their individual members would also be surveyed on the issue of mandating pain relief.

WoolProducers president Ed Storey

Mr Wood could not be contacted this afternoon, but WPA president Ed Storey said the results represented “pretty strong support” for WPA’s policy to mandate pain relief.

“Our policy was developed from the grassroots up by representatives that make up our board and the animal welfare committee, and it is entirely consistent with the policy position reached by WoolProducers last November.

“WoolProducers is progressing the policy, the numbers are very strongly of a view that pain relief is essential for mulesing,” he said.

“This is very supportive of the high health and welfare regard wool growers have on a daily basis for their animals.

“What other organisations do is up to them, but what I would make clear is this – this is the exact opposite of the ‘banning mulesing’ debate.

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate the practice we are doing on a daily basis, give them a firmer footing and enable us to advocate that mulesing with pain relief is a first-class welfare outcome for many sheep production systems in Australia.”


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  1. Sally Grenshaw, July 12, 2019

    Just over 16 percent stated they don’t support pain relief which is unbelievable. They are blatantly supporting animal cruelty, which is just barbaric. In a consumer-driven environment that continues to tell producers they want ethically produced products, how can they claim no pain relief is OK? It is those farmers who portray Australian farmers in a negative light across the world. Time to move out of farming and into an occupation where a sense of responsibility or ethical behaviour is not required. You should hold your heads in shame.

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