October 19, 2007
October 19, 2007 - The legal battle between the Australian wool industry and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) may be over, but the war over mulesing continues to rage from Hollywood to the back paddock. The weapons include everything from plastic skin clips to celebrity video clips.
Despite healthy skepticism from various fields, those finding a mulesing alternative by 2010 are growing in confidence.
This week, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) hosted a field day to show how the mulesing clip technology was progressing.
Two tail and two breech clips had been placed on a bunch of June drop Merino and Merino cross lambs, and 14 days after their application, assembled media were given the chance to see the results as the clips were removed.
Mulesing contractor Warren Godson, who applied the clips, said he was increasingly positive about the results.
"No one was more skeptical of the clips than me, but they are delivering very good results - comparable to a conventional mules," he said.
With a team of four men, he could apply the clips to 1,000 lambs in a day while still performing the usual tasks of ear tagging and vaccinating.
"It is a great technology that brings about two centimeters of skin over the top of the tail, where a lot of sheep get flyblown," Godson commented.
Another option to mulesing that AWI is developing is an intradermal injection that forces a detergent-like substance into the skin with a needle-less injector under high pressure. A layer of skin dies and the new wool-free skin contracts that area around the breech.
A third and most long-term alternative to mulesing involves the breeding of bare breeched animals.
There are varying opinions within the industry as to the best approach for moving forward. One producer voiced his belief that pain relief was not an alternative to continue traditional mulesing because "at the end of the day, the visual aspect of conventional mulesing?is totally unacceptable to consumers. They won't stomach it."
Mulesing is about preserving the health of sheep. Australian farmers have used mulesing since the 1930s to protect their sheep from fly strike. Mulesing removes the skin from around the sheep's backside to develop a bald area and thereby prevent fly strike. PETA attacked the practice back in 2004 forcing the Australian sheep industry to look to alternative ways to prevent fly strike. Reprinted in part from North Queensland Register