Should sheep be mulesed?

Organic farming can be a hot enough topic without the welfare issue added in.

And at times animal welfare has been a hotter topic than chemicals in agriculture.

There is a lot of public interest in stopping procedures such as mulesing of sheep and caging of poultry.”

I wrote that in 1995 in a book about organic farming for the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales, Australia.

It has taken 13 years but animal welfare is definitely at boilover point now. Almost every day the TV news or metropolitan newspaper carries an item about a protest, ban or some other public criticism of mulesing.

It is an unpleasant operation for the sheep and for the operator. It is unnecessary in almost all cases. And has been for a long time.

Why? Because there are ways to avoid the “need” for it.

What kept it going long after it became clear that it was not needed was resistance to change by the Australian wool industry and by individual farmers and graziers.

To eliminate the need for mulesing, something has to change in the sheep management, particularly the selection of sheep – their bloodline and/or which animals are kept and which are culled.

Those who haven’t taken the necessary steps will now have to do them in a hurry.

Leaving it to the last minute means the only options that work are those that work quickly and they are usually more expensive.

Plus, market demands may increase to the point where many of those resisting the change will find it difficult to sell their wool for clothing and so will get lower prices.

Market reality can seem cruel.

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