Retailers pledge to phased out mulesed wool clothing

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerCountryman
Kojonup sheep farmer Steve McGuire
Camera IconKojonup sheep farmer Steve McGuire Credit: Daniel Wilkins

Kmart and Target have become the latest retailers pledging to phase out mulesed wool in their fashion ranges, but farmers maintain these moves are counterintuitive to animal welfare and pander to animal activists.

Target and Kmart this week said they would stop selling products containing mulesed wool in their fashion lines by 2030, joining others including Decjuba, Forever New, David Jones and the Country Road group, which have announced similar plans to stop its use.

Mulesing, where the wool-bearing skin is cut from around a lamb’s tail area, is considered necessary by many farmers to prevent painful and harmful flystrike, and is commonly used in wool-producing merinos because their wrinkled skin means they are vulnerable to this potentially lethal ailment.

WAFarmers vice-president Steve McGuire, also a representative of WoolProducers Australia, said the Kmart and Target pledges were meaningless given the industry was confident it would have alternatives in place by 2030.

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Alternatives under the microscope range from new genetics to adapting management practices.

Mr McGuire said about 85 per cent of farmers who mulesed their sheep used pain relief to minimise suffering, and the wool industry was pushing to increase this to 100 per cent.

“These retailers cite sustainability, but it’s far less sustainable to have unmulesed sheep dying of flystrike, or using lots of chemicals,” he said.

“I question how much consultation there has been with the sheep industry, and suspect these retailers are just bowing to animal activists and seeking publicity.”

Mr McGuire also questioned how much wool, which was typically used in premium clothing product, would be sold by budget retailers such as Kmart.

Four Paws Australia head of programs Jessica Medcalf said more than two billion animals ended up in fashion supply chains every year.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said phasing out mulesed wool did not have to be counter-intuitive to good animal welfare.

“There are many properties successfully running non-mulesed sheep with high animal welfare outcomes, but producers do need to plan their transition from mulesing and utilise the many management techniques available before ceasing mulesing,” she said

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