Australia has a proud record of achievement in sheep welfare innovation and adoption of new technologies and has laws and regulations that create a framework for the industry to uphold as a benchmark of animal welfare.
The industry and our governments are committed to continuously improving animal welfare techniques and refining standards.
While producers are held accountable for their animals’ welfare, there are also national and state frameworks of welfare that are informed by industry-agreed Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. These underpin access to domestic and overseas markets and reinforce Australia’s commitment to advancing meaningful and effective animal welfare outcomes.
The welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep specify the legal standards of management and husbandry required to protect and maintain the welfare of sheep in Australia. They apply to all those responsible for the care and management of sheep, cover various welfare requirements in relation to: feed and water; risk management in extreme weather, natural disasters, disease, injury and predation; facilities and equipment; handling, management and husbandry; breeding management; and humane killing.
The Australian wool industry demonstrates its ongoing commitment to animal welfare through their policy and advocacy efforts led by WoolProducers Australia, the national wool industry representative body.
Supporting the implementation of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, Australia’s sheep, cattle and goat industries have implemented a national Livestock Production Assurance program.
In Australia, animal welfare legislation is enforced by state and territory governments in partnership with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and other authorised agencies.
Each state and territory has legislation that mandates and enforces animal welfare standards, as well as the prevention of cruelty to animals and personal accountability for animal welfare, including sheep producers.
The practice of mulesing was invented more than 90 years ago to provide Merino sheep with lifetime protection against breech flystrike.
Flystrike is caused by fly larvae (maggots) being laid on the breech area of sheep and infesting and feeding on tissue. Left untreated, breech flystrike typically results in a slow, painful death to the animal. Mulesing has proven remarkably effective as a preventative measure, because it involves one-time surgical removal of wool-bearing skin on either side of the breech of lambs, greatly reducing flystrike of the breech. Australian woolgrowers have invested heavily in development of alternative procedures to mulesing, with a number of alternatives being trialled.
In response to technological innovations and evolving consumer expectations, Australia has positioned itself as a world leader and innovator in the development and implementation of pain relief products for livestock. Examples of such innovations include:
Now that these products are widely available, pain relief application when mulesing is moving towards becoming mandatory. WoolProducers Australia policy calls for state and territory governments to mandate pain relief when mulesing throughout Australia – something that has already been adopted into legislation in Victoria.