PETA, the master of myth-information, continues to myth-lead the public about mulesing in its latest piece

“The Six Myths of Mulesing”

There is nothing worse for an Australian Merino sheep than to suffer the pain and agony of attack by flesh-eating maggots hatched from the eggs of the aggressive sheep blowfly These maggots eat the flesh of the sheep, causing bloody wounds and eventual blood poisoning. The sheep is likely to die unless found and treated quickly. The sheep blowfly prefers to attack the breech (backside) of the Merino sheep. Faeces and, in the case of females, urine, accumulates in the wool growing on the skin folds around the breech making it an attractive target for the blowfly. Mulesed sheep have a clean, non-wool bearing area around the breech, making it significantly less likely that faeces and urine will accumulate. Consequently, eggs will not be laid by the blowfly. PETA continually implies woolgrowers who mules their sheep do not use other methods to stop their sheep being flystruck. This is totally incorrect! Growers do all of the things that PETA recommends – crutching, jetting with insecticides, the use of flytraps, internal parasite control, pasture management, regular flock inspections and selecting for plainer-breeched sheep. These are all performed as a complement to mulesing – but none of them can replace mulesing for its effectiveness. PETA says 20% of farmers do not mules. Most of these farmers have cross-bred sheep for prime lamb production (20% of the Australian sheep flock). These sheep have a plain breech which does not present the same problem as the Merino sheep which is a specialist, fine wool breed producing the world’s best apparel wool. The proven experience is that non-mulesed Merinos have a much higher rate of breech strike than mulesed Merinos. Therefore they suffer the stress of flystrike which can occur every year and often several times within a fly season. Flystrike is a very stressful experience for sheep. Research indicates a very high percentage (95%) of Merino sheep are mulesed.* The reason for this is clear – it is highly effective in giving sheep lifetime protection from breech strike, thereby saving them from the stress and risk of premature death from flystike. *In ‘The Land’ on February 17, 2005, an officer of the Department reported that “100% of Merinos examined at Deniliquin saleyards had been mulesed and about 10% of first-cross ewes were also shown to have been mulesed.” (Deniliquin is in south western NSW and the area has a large sheep population.)

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PETA quotes Chick Olsson. Chick, representing the Australian Wool Growers Association, was involved in the Industry Stakeholder meeting which supported the need to continue the current practice of mulesing until it is phased out by 2010.

RSPCA (Australia) states on its website that: “in particular geographical locations, where there is a high risk of flystrike and it has been established that there is absolutely no acceptable alternative to mulesing, the RSPCA considers mulesing a necessary means of eliminating or minimising the pain and suffering caused by flystrike.’ A leading rural newspaper in Australia, the Weekly Times, reported that RSPCA (Aust.) President, Hugh Wirth, said that PETA was dangerous and had undone a lot of the good work done by the RSPCA over many years. (Weekly Times, Jan. 19, 2005, p.5).

Deliberate cruelty to animals is totally unacceptable to sheep producers. Flystrike inflicts pain, suffering and likely death to sheep. Once mulesed, the sheep has life-long protection against the horrific suffering and likely death that breech flystrike can cause. “If left alone, blowflies in the hot Australian climate create open wounds that kill sheep through infection.” Catherine Munro, The Sunday Age, 30 January 2005. Australian sheep and wool producers manage more than 100 million sheep. This is a 365 day per year commitment, year in and year out, through good seasons and bad. No one knows more about animal welfare than a hands-on producer. It is plain common sense that sheep which are unhealthy or poorly managed will have lesser quality wool. Only contented, well-cared for sheep produce quality wool and lambs every year.

The industry did not say mulesing was like ‘skinning your knuckles’. But neither is mulesing ‘cutting chunks of flesh off lambs’ backsides with gardening shears’ as untruthfully propagated by PETA. The study to which PETA refers (‘abnormal behaviours for up to 113 days’) actually measured data only at the 35 day and 113 day mark and nothing in between. Lambs may well have recovered on day 36 but that was not recorded. What PETA does not report is that the same stress measures indicate acute stress reactions in sheep during flystrike, which can persist for the duration of the infection.

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Unmulesed sheep will be much more susceptible to breech strike and therefore to the attendant pain and suffering. The stress response associated with mulesing is comparable to that caused by mild flystrike. In the case of mulesing, this stress response lasts for about 24-48 hours. In the case of flystrike, the stress response lasts as long as the strike. Also, mulesing is done only once during the animal’s life, while flystrike can recur every year in the right conditions. The Tasmanian farmer quoted is an alternate, organic producer who runs nonMerino, British breed sheep that can be managed without mulesing because of their plain breech.

PETA’s self-proclaimed vegan-driven mission (as displayed on its website) is to end all use of animals for food, fibre, medical research and recreation. Why would the Australian wool industry be the only one to be given an exemption? Animal rights groups in Australia who are supporting PETA’s campaign are regularly quoted as saying that other animal welfare practices will be targeted after mulesing is dealt with. PETA needs to produce more convincing evidence.

Just ask some of the world’s major retailers what they think about PETA’s claim! Abercrombie and Fitch caved into PETA because of the threat of an “Abercruelty” type campaign. Many major retailers have received threats of damaging publicity and demonstrations. One major international retailer is currently being publicly attacked by PETA in the northern hemisphere. Damaging material is displayed PETA’s website. The retailers get swamped with emails from PETA’s supporters, disrupting their normal business operations. A survey of internet sites devoted to combating animal rights activism and detailing previous PETA activities reveals why retailers fear PETA.

admin@woolisbest.com 24 February 2005

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