Wool industry promotion of steining as solution to mulesing premature: RSPCA

The RSPCA is concerned that recent promotion of the ‘steining’ method of preventing flystrike in sheep fails to address the animal welfare concerns associated with this method.

The RSPCA acknowledges that flystrike poses a significant animal welfare issue to sheep. To date, flystrike risk has been managed through mulesing – a procedure which itself causes severe pain and suffering to the lamb.

Steining uses liquid nitrogen to modify the skin in the breech area, essentially reducing the wrinkly folds that increase the risk of flystrike. Studies of the earlier liquid nitrogen technology found the method to be similarly painful to mulesing regardless of whether pain relief was applied. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the current technology causes any less pain or distress to sheep.

The RSPCA urges wool producers to invest in a long-term solution to flystrike, specifically transitioning to sheep that are not susceptible to flystrike, to eliminate the need for any form of breech modification.

It is unacceptable to continue to breed sheep that are susceptible to flystrike and therefore require an on-going need for mulesing, or steining, or any other breech modification procedure to manage flystrike risk.