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Sheep wool

The bloody business of sheep wool production

Wool production is a thriving business, especially overseas in regions such as Australia, New Zealand and South America. Animal welfare problems are prevalent in sheep farming - as with other farm animal systems.

The cruel practice of "Mulesing"?

Mulesing is one of the most significant sheep welfare issues. Strips of the sheeps' hind parts are literally cut out in order to prevent flystrike; a severe welfare issue in itself.


Mulesing does not fully prevent the occurrence of flystrike. FOUR PAWS strongly calls for the end of mulesing. Although mulesing is only carried out in Australia this issue cannot be overlooked due to the fact that Australia is the biggest wool exporting country.

FOUR PAWS wants to improve the life of millions of sheep being kept for their wool.
© iStock | John Carnemolla

Other welfare issues: Castration & tail docking

Other welfare issues include castration and tail docking – procedures that are commonly carried out in sheep farming around the world.


An even problem however concerning the Australian indsurtsy is the transport of live sheep to the Middle East. This week-long trip is extremely stressful for the animals while the fact that a lot of sheep die during the journey is overlooked. 

What FOUR PAWS is doing about these issues

FOUR PAWS is part of the "Responsible Wool Standard" working group. It is clear the industry will not stop using wool in the near future. However, brands that choose to use any products of animal origin such as wool should take responsibility for the animals used for their products. By creating a standard, animal welfare issues have to be tackled. FOUR PAWS makes sure that the highest possible requirements are in place – for better keeping practices of millions of sheep. 

What you can do

The best way to avoid potentially cruel practices within the production of wool is to avoid buying wool products at all. However, if you do not want to stop using wool local sheep producers usually sell wool products as well, in which case you may be able to check for yourself if the animals are treated well.


Otherwise, check the websites of companies selling wool prodcucts to establish their policy on wool and wool sourcing. If you are still concerned, we suggest writing to companies asking how the animals in their wool supply chain are kept and what the company is doing to guarantee animal welfare along within this supply chain.