National Wool Declaration review leaves animal welfare and consumer choice behind

The RSPCA has today expressed its disappointment in the outcome of the National Wool Declaration review, saying it leaves wool-buying customers and consumers in the dark about industry practices and animal welfare.  

RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer Melina Tensen said the failure of the review to recognise alternative categories of ‘breech modification’ is a poor result for those wool growers who have done the right thing by moving away from mulesing, and breeding sheep that are resistant to flystrike without any form of breech modification.

“With so many leading retailers and businesses already committing to only purchasing non-mulesed wool, the Australian wool industry had a real opportunity to grow those markets, and support wool growers who are working hard to eliminate the painful practice of mulesing,” said Ms Tensen.

“Instead, sadly, that opportunity has now been missed.

“Now, these wool growers have no option but to continue to declare their wool ‘NM’ (non mulesed) and be lumped together with liquid nitrogen or any other method that still modifies the breech.

“Buyers seeking wool from sheep that have not been subjected to any form of breech modification will remain unable to identify suitable choices based on the National Wool Declaration categories,” she said.

Adding to the confusion, Ms Tensen said the ‘PR’ (pain relief) category was changed to ‘AA’ (analgesic and/or anaesthetic), which she said “seriously risks misleading wool buyers into thinking that pre-procedure anaesthetic and post-procedure analgesia were used, which might suggest the lamb has felt little pain during and after mulesing.

“And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“This review of the Nation Wool Declaration was an opportunity for wool growers to be more transparent about on-farm practices, build business and consumer trust, and allow wool buyers to make fully informed choices.

“At this, the Australian wool industry has dismally failed,” said Ms Tensen.