Sheep are highly unsuited to the Australian climate. In the Australian wool industry, Merino sheep have been selectively bred to have loose skin folds, as the increased surface area of the skin allows for an increase in wool production. The skin folds however, become sweaty and damp in summer. A combination of the weather and skin creates the perfect environment for flystrike, a painful condition for sheep, where fly larvae feed on the sheep tissue. To ‘save’ their sheep, farmers use mulesing, where the flesh around a sheep’s breech is sliced off, as this is where urine and faeces in the wool is most likely to attract flystrike. This process is often done without using anaesthetic.
Each year in Australia, approximately 20 million sheep experience mulesing, which is a prime example of how greed leads to barbaric acts of cruelty.
Due to pressure from animal activists, the Australian wool industry stated they would phase out mulesing by 2010. However, this hasn’t happened, and the fight to outlaw the barbaric practice is back on the agenda. With a number of alternatives, including selective breeding for sheep without skin folds, there is no reason except a lack of willingness to change that keeps mulesing in practice.