Mulesing and Animal Ethics

  • Joanne SneddonEmail author
  • Bernard Rollin


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for a ban on mulesing in the Australian sheep industry in 2004. Mulesing is a surgical procedure that removes wool-bearing skin from the tail and breech area of sheep in order to prevent flystrike (cutaneous myiasis). Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs in soiled areas of wool on the sheep and can be fatal for the sheep host. PETA claimed that mulesing subjects sheep to unnecessary pain and suffering and took action against the Australian wool industry that resulted in a number of international clothing retailers choosing not to use Australian wool. Although the Australian sheep industry agreed to phase out mulesing in 2010, there is some uncertainty as to whether this deadline will be achieved. The changing social ethic towards animal welfare suggests that the way the Australian sheep industry manages the phase out of mulesing in 2010 is vital to its future survival and success. It is likely that if mulesing does not cease in 2010 there will be a negative market reaction to Australian wool and the risk of legislation to ban mulesing. To avoid losing control of its animal welfare strategy, the Australian sheep industry should ensure that mulesing is phased out in 2010 and endorse the animal welfare ethic underpinning this change. The industry should also educate farmers and other industry stakeholders in how the changing social ethic for animal welfare can create new market opportunities for wool.


Animal welfare Ethics Australia Flystrike Sheep Mulesing 



We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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