The sight of a mulesed sheep is so distressing that newsrooms debate whether they can publish photos of animals who have had it done. Here’s how you can avoid products that come from farms that mules.
Mulesing is a common practice on sheep farms that grow sheep specifically for wool. It’s where the wrinkled skin around an animal’s bottom (under the tail) is cut away.
It’s done to prevent flies from infecting the area because it stops faeces from gathering.
As you would assume, it’s not pretty and it’s extremely cruel. It takes up to four weeks for the area to heal and some animals die as a result.
The wool dilema
Mulesing is one of the reasons we at Sustainable Shopper are torn about whether it’s truly ethical to buy a wool product when there are cotton or synthetic options.
Many sheep farmers practice alternatives to mulesing such as selective breeding, mechanical cleaning and sprays.
The Australian organic industry boasts animal welfare as one of its biggest priorities yet to date it still allows mulesing, in conjunction with ‘pain relief’ such as anaesthetic.
This is not to say all or a lot of organic farmers do it, many (organic and conventional) farmers don’t do it. The Australian Certified Organic Standard states that mulesing will be banned from December 2015.
How to avoid mulesing
- Look for the GOTS logo. It bans mulesing and is an international certification widely found on clothes and manchester in Australia.
- Look for a Humane Choice logo which also bans mulesing. It is more common on free range eggs than wool products.
- Ask the retailer. Some shops specialising in organic and natural textiles can tell you if mulesing is used to produce their products. Blessed Earth is an example of a retailer which gives that information.