The Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) has published a revised National Wool Declaration (NWD), that identifies wool from sheep treated with liquid nitrogen or freeze branding from wool from non-mulesed lines.
The definitions regarding mulesing were a source of contention in the 2019 NWD, since other breach alteration procedures such as freeze branding may be classified as non-mulesed.
Wool farmers may include wool from sheep that had liquid nitrogen injected into the breech area as non-mulesed before the current assessment by checking the ‘NM' box.
This classification reflected the fact that mulesing is described as being done with surgical shears under Australian regulations, which are not utilized in the freeze branding (liquid nitrogen) application procedure. Australia's main wool broker and exporter organizations have likewise backed the NWD amendments.
Melina Tensen, senior scientific officer (farm animals) at the RSPCA Australia, said the NWD amendments were excellent news for wool farmers and consumers wanting supply chain transparency. Sheep freeze branding removes skin around the breech area (backside) of the lamb using liquid nitrogen, leaving an area of exposed, stretched skin that is less vulnerable to flystrike.
She added that recent research in lambs treated to sheep freeze branding or mulesing with pain medication revealed that regardless of the technique, lambs display identical behavioral pain responses. The NWD has become more open as a result of this study, allowing wool purchasers to make fully informed decisions – particularly if they are looking for wool from sheep who have not been mulesed or subjected to another unpleasant medical procedure. The reality is that sheep freeze branding and mulesing are unpleasant treatments, and the only long-term answer to protecting sheep from flystrike is to produce plainer bodied, flystrike-resistant sheep.
Humane Society International Australia's Program Manager for Animal Welfare, Georgie Dolphin, said that the updated NWD will guarantee that wool from freeze-mulesed sheep is distinguished from wool from non-mulesed animals.
Dolphin added that to classify freeze branding as non-mulesed would have been a disservice to wool farmers who have already taken the lead in breeding plain-bodied flystrike resistant sheep as a long-term and lucrative solution. As customer, wool broker, buyer, and retailer desire for more openness grows, this result becomes increasingly more relevant. Humane Society International is in talks with a lot of companies, and a lot of them are proactively updating their animal welfare policies to promote the genetic answer to flystrike, so this is a really good development for a lot of people.
Under the latest NWD assessment, FOUR PAWS wool campaigner Rebecca Picallo Gil stated the Australian Wool Exchange has taken a step toward more openness by declaring freeze-branded wool separately from non-mulesed wool. This demonstrates a recognition that brands do not want mulesed wool, freeze-branded or not, and is a move required by the global market.
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