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September 23, 2021

Major brand names urge end to mulesing

Major household names including Adidas, M&S and Primark have signed a letter urging the Australian sheep wool industry to end mulesing by 2030.

By Hannah Abdulla

The letter headed up by global animal welfare organisation Four Paws has been signed by over 30 global fashion brands with an aim to end the mulesing farming technique.

Mulesing is a practice that is unique to Australia and involves cutting large chunks of skin and flesh from the rear ends of merino sheep, often without any pain relief, in an attempt to prevent maggot infestations known as flystrike.

“The brand letter is intended to send a strong signal to the Australian wool industry that it is time to abolish mulesing once and for all by setting concrete measures to enable the transition. More and more wool producers, fashion brands, and consumers are demanding this and it can no longer be ignored by producers,” says Rebecca Picallo Gil, Four Paws Wool Campaigner.

The Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the industry association representing the interests of Australian wool producers, outline in its Wool 2030 Strategy a desire for woolgrowers to have tools and confidence to manage flystrike without mulesing.

Four Paws welcomes the goal but notes an absence of how this will be achieved. According to Picallo Gil whilst this is positive news, there is more to be done: “Many brands are switching to use only certified mulesing-free wool from 2025, five years earlier than the proposals from AWI. In addition to the five-year extra grace, studies have shown that the switch to resistant sheep breeds that make mulesing redundant takes only three to five years per farm. The AWI must be more consistent here and, above all, present a tangible action plan on how this goal is actually to be achieved by 2030.”

The AWI could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

According to a recent Four Pawssurvey of nearly 14,000 participants across 12 countries from Europe, North America, Africa, and Australia, consumers’ buying behaviour has changed since Covid-19: Almost one third (31%) of the respondents either consciously look for clothes with animal welfare standards or avoid animal-derived textiles completely. Brands that follow this trend are preferred by one in three adults (37%) over other brands.

This change in shopper behaviour has not only been spotted by brands; the entire supply chain is responding to these changing preferences, Four Paws says.

Other signatories include Bestseller, Esprit, Icebreaker, Mammut, Jack Wolfskin, C&A, H&M, and Missguided.

Paul Smith, head of sourcing and product technology at Missguided, says: “As a responsible retailer animal welfare is important to us and the use of mulesing has for many years been highlighted as a particularly traumatic procedure. We cannot condone the use of mulesing, especially when there are other methods of controlling fly infestations, and are therefore happy to sign this letter showing our support in the phasing out of this procedure.”

Earlier this year, The Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) updated its National Wool Declaration (NWD) to help woolgrowers declare if mulesing took place using liquid nitrogen and with or without pain relief.

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