Think wool is harmless? Think again! Most of the world’s wool comes from Australia—and the most commonly raised sheep in that country are merinos, who are specifically bred to have wrinkly skin (which means more wool per animal).
This unnatural overload of wool causes many sheep to collapse and even die of heat exhaustion during hot months. The wrinkles collect urine and moisture, which attract flies and cause a maggot infestation known as “flystrike.” In a crude and cruel attempt to prevent flystrike, farmers mutilate lambs with “mulesing.”
Mulesing is a barbaric procedure in which Australian ranchers force live lambs onto their backs, restrain their legs between metal bars, and, sometimes without any painkillers whatsoever, carve huge chunks of skin off the animals’ backsides.
Many lambs who have undergone the mulesing mutilation still suffer slow, agonizing deaths from flystrike. The deep wounds from mulesing can also become infected. Even if they make it through flystrike and mulesing, many lambs are still sent to slaughter once their bodies are worn out and they stop producing as much wool.
Humane methods of flystrike control are available and in use by some farmers. Lambs can be spared maggot infestation through humane methods such as diet regulation, spray washing, and simply breeding types of sheep who are better suited for the Australian climate and less susceptible to flystrike.
How can you help? Purchase cruelty-free clothing, including cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, and synthetic shearling. Oh, and now that you know—don’t forget to tell everyone you can about mulesing.
Thanks for having a <3 for sheep!