FOUR PAWS calls for an end to live lamb cutting in new briefing paper

Ten million Australian lambs die every year for fashion


A new investigation from FOUR PAWS reveals the brutality of live lamb cutting and urges brands and consumers to take action 

An investigation by global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS reveals the shocking and largely unknown reality for millions of lambs used for global wool production. The investigation, alongside additional footage published on the platform ‘Farm Transparency Project’ should send a sharp message to consumers and brands alike, about the brutal conditions in which the wool they wear has been obtained.  

In Australia, the world’s leading merino wool producer, figures suggest that an estimated ten million lambs die every year, vastly above the global average. These young animals have their lives snatched from them within days of being born; something that is likely unknown by consumers.  

The biggest risks for newborn lambs include birthing difficulties, poor breeding choices, as well as inadequate care practices. And for those that do survive, they are then subjected to live lamb cutting (also known as mulesing) where the skin folds of their buttocks are cut off with shears, often without adequate pain relief or anesthesia, in order to prevent flystrike. But there are more humane ways to address this issue that don’t involve live lamb cutting, which should be used to prevent such unnecessary suffering.

Every year, millions of lambs silently starve and freeze to death alone.  Sometimes, their mother is close by and witnesses the agony her lamb has to endure, unable to help. This needless suffering, which is happening on an unimaginable scale, is heart-breaking and must be stopped.  For the welfare of lambs, and their mothers, and for the sustainability of the industry, it is time for change.

Emily Wilson, Head of Programmes, FOUR PAWS UK

For Australian sheep, the biggest hurdle is to stay alive for the first few days after birth. It is during these early days of life that 80% of lamb deaths are reported. If they survive, most lambs aged between two to twelve weeks undergo live lamb cutting. This barbaric and unnecessary procedure causes excruciating pain, and leaves wounds which can take many weeks to heal. Every year, more than ten million animals are forced to suffer in this way.  However, change is possible, but that work has to start before lambs are born, with simple steps like the right breeding choices and management.

Don Mudford, a farmer who stopped live lamb cutting, and achieved higher lamb survival rates by transitioning to plain-bodied sheep, said: 

“Since transitioning to plain-bodied sheep types, I’ve noticed our ewes are having less problems and more successful births and are better able to handle the physical demands of mothering."

While research on the relationship between plain-bodied, flystrike-resistant sheep and increased lamb survival is limited, grower accounts support the link between these factors. This was also found in a 2020 survey, by BG Economics, of nearly 100 wool producers across Australia.  

FOUR PAWS calls for the urgent adoption of breeding and management practices that prioritise lamb and ewe survival. This includes breeding for flystrike-resistant, plain-bodied sheep in addition to other techniques outlined in the new briefing paper ‘Shining a light on lamb mortality’. It is also crucial for producers to be encouraged and supported to roll out these practices by peak institutions, assurance schemes certifying them and brands and retailers who profit from the sale of wool. 

Kim Manning-Cooper

Head of Communications UK

07500 583565

7 - 14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR


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