The Painful Silence of the Lambs

RSPCA Australia is calling on wool producers to use pain relief this lamb marking season. A low-cost, practical pain relief solution for mulesing has been available for years.

Mulesing involves cutting flaps of skin from around a lamb’s breech and tail to create an area of bare, stretched skin making the lamb less susceptible to flystrike.

RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer (Farm Animals), Melina Tensen, said only 60 per cent of Merino lambs would have pain relief administered after being mulesed.

 “We estimate that over 5 million Merino lambs undergo this brutal procedure without pain relief, and they do so in silence”, Ms Tensen said.

“It’s extremely disappointing that, in the last three years, there has been almost no change in the number of growers using pain relief”.

“Queensland has the lowest number of Merino lambs treated with pain relief at around 56,000 (16% of all Merino lambs in QLD), while South Australian growers are the most likely to use pain relief, 1,844,000 lambs (82%)”.

“In New South Wales, around 3,575,000 lambs (65%) received pain relief, while that percentage was lower in Western Australia, at 2,090,000 (56%) but higher in Victoria, at 1,530,000 (72%) and Tasmania, at 302,261 (72%)”.

The wool industry’s long-term goal is to remove the need for mulesing.

“Wool growers need to do more to end mulesing once and for all. In the interim, there’s simply no excuse not to use pain relief. It even has productivity benefits”.

“If growers don’t understand the need to end mulesing, or respond to community revulsion at the painful practice, they should listen to the buyers of their product.

“Marks and Spencers stopped using mulesed wool in 2010. Country Road, Hugo Boss, ADIDAS, GAP, H&M and Abercrombie and Fitch also source non-mulesed wool.

“The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries is currently considering banning mulesing altogether, proposing fines up to $NZ 25,000.

“It’s time Australian producers moved towards more humane practices in raising our lambs”, Ms Tensen said.


NOTE: Lamb numbers receiving pain relief calculated using the following sources:

       ABS (2016) Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2014-15. Catalogue no. 7121.0 – Number of Merino lambs marked by state (2014-15).

                Animal Ethics (2015) ‘Mulesing/Tri-Solfen Update’, Animal Ethics press release, 7 November 2015.