Non-mulesing Sheep

100 Textile Brands Against Mulesing

FOUR PAWS urges fashion industry to demand cruelty-free wool


1 April 2020 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has published a list of over 100 international textile brands that have a proactive stance against mulesing of lambs. This brutal mutilation is practiced solely in Australia to prevent infestation by flies in the sheep’s skin wrinkles. The lambs rarely receive any pain relief while skin on their buttocks is cut off with metal shears. The procedure leaves them with painful wounds that take weeks to heal, and flies can still infest other areas on their body. Brands like Patagonia, H&M, Jack Wolfskin and Hugo Boss are speaking out against this cruel practice and show that the demand for non-mulesed wool is growing. FOUR PAWS urges the fashion industry to commit to phasing out mulesed wool and further emphasise the growing global demand for mulesed-free wool.

Some of the brands highlighted in the FOUR PAWS brand assessment are already moving away from mulesed wool in their product range and others have committed to phase out mulesed wool within the next years. Outdoor brands like Patagonia, Ortovox and Kathmandu are already completely mulesed-free and therefore leading with their progress. Traceability and certification schemes like the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), New Merino and ZQ Merino are increasingly relied upon by brands to help ensure animal welfare criteria and full transparency in their supply chains. Such standards and certification schemes prohibit the particularly controversial practice of mulesing. Retailers H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch as well as fashion brands like Only, Jack & Jones and Vero Moda are among those committed to become 100% RWS or equivalently certified soon. Read more here:

“There is clearly a large number of brands that don’t want wool from mulesed sheep. Their public position against mulesing shows a distinct message and growing demand for mulesed-free wool. Brands have spoken out against this brutal procedure, and it is now time for them to start phasing out mulesed wool and for their supply chains to transition away from this cruel and unnecessary mutilation.” 

Rebecca Picallo Gil, Wool Campaign Manager at FOUR PAWS

Mulesing – A brutal and outdated practice

The longstanding focus on sheep with more skin wrinkles that produce a higher amount of quality wool, has also created an animal who is highly susceptible to flystrike. Maggots bury themselves into the sheep’s skinfolds and flesh and infest the animal. These maggots can create wounds that, if left undetected and untreated, can lead to debilitating pain and even death. Mulesing was created over a hundred years ago in Australia as a cheap method to counteract flystrike. The process generally entails the restraint of 2 to 10-week-old lambs, on their back in a metal cradle, while strips of skin around their breech are cut away with sharp shears. Once the wound heals, the scar tissue left behind reduces the amount of wool and wrinkles around the area.


Different breed of sheep a cruelty-free alternative

While mulesing is not practiced, and in some cases illegal, in other wool producing countries like Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa, it is legal and still commonly used in Australia, which produces 75 percent of all the world’s apparel wool. “Wool growers in Australia need to transition to smooth or plain-bodied merino sheep that don’t have excessive wrinkles from overbreeding and are more resilient against parasites and flystrike. It can take three to five years to transition to such sheep which would make mulesing unnecessary. The life cycle of the currently used sheep is not affected by that. FOUR PAWS is willing to support brands that want to commit to phase out their supply of mulesed wool,” says Picallo Gil. More than 1,000 Australian farms are already mulesed-free and use alternatives that end the suffering of millions of sheep every year, with the numbers of wool producers following that example growing with the growing demand.

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