New mulesing status category good for transparency in wool: RSPCA

RSPCA Australia has welcomed the new requirement for wool growers to declare sheep freeze branding on the National Wool Declaration from January 2022 – a move that will increase transparency in the supply chain for wool growers and buyers. 

Sheep freeze branding involves applying liquid nitrogen to a lamb’s breech area to leave an area of scarred skin that is smoother and therefore less susceptible to flystrike. It is performed as an alternative to the traditional procedure known as mulesing, but evidence suggests freeze branding is similarly painful for the lamb. 

The National Wool Declaration – which wool growers complete voluntarily to declare their mulesing status – will now include a category requiring sheep freeze branding to be declared as well. To date, wool from sheep subjected to freeze branding could be declared as ‘non-mulesed’. 

“This decision is good news for wool buyers seeking greater transparency in the supply chain,” said RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer (Farm Animals), Melina Tensen. 

“This means that wool buyers can make fully informed choices – particularly if they are seeking to buy wool from sheep who haven’t been mulesed or subjected to another painful procedure to manage flystrike risk. 

“We know that people care about where wool comes from, and that mulesing status is clearly relevant to the consumer. There’s no greater evidence of that than the number of retailers who are moving away from mulesed wool. 

“Recent research in lambs subjected to sheep freeze branding or mulesing with pain relief found that lambs show similar behavioural pain responses, regardless of the procedure. 

“The fact remains that sheep freeze branding and mulesing are painful procedures, and breeding plainer bodied, flystrike-resistant sheep is the only long-term solution to protecting sheep from flystrike.” 

For more information on mulesing and flystrike prevention, visit our Knowledgebase