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What is mulesing-free wool?
PETA Approved, Cruelty Free, ZQ and RWS (Responsible Wool Standard), Mulesing free,... With all these labels, it's easy to lose track, isn't it? But they have one thing in common: to ensure the welfare of animals. And one of these animal welfare labels is particularly close to our hearts, the mulesing-free guarantee. This label refers to a particular breed of sheep, namely Merino sheep. You know, those big fluffy sheep that give us supersoft jumpers and scarves?
No idea which sheep we're talking about? These are the ones we mean!
The precious wool of the merino sheep
Merino wool is the top wool par excellence: it is warm, yet light and extremely soft. It is its exceptionally fine fibres that give it this softness and its high reputation. You could almost say that this wool has superpowers. You don't believe us? Merino wool can absorb up to 35% of its own weight in moisture without feeling damp. If that's not a superpower! So a garment or accessory made from this wool won't make you sweat. Merino wool also neutralises odours and has an antibacterial effect. This wool is so popular that some merino breeders do everything they can not to lose a single one of the precious fibres. That is why some breeders practice the torturous mulesing on merino sheep.
What happens when sheep are mulesed?
Mulesing is a painful procedure that young Merino sheep undergo to avoid myiasis, a disease characterised by fly larvae under the skin. This is because a sheep infested with myiasis would negatively affect the quality of the wool. Breeders who use mulesing have only the wool quality in mind and not the welfare of the animals. This barbaric method involves cutting off large chunks of skin and flesh in the tail area while the animals are fully conscious. The consequences for the animals are dramatic, even if the healing goes well, the psychological trauma remains.
Where is mulesing of Merino sheep still used?
You may wonder whether this method is still used at all. The answer, unfortunately, is yes. However, this barbarism is strictly forbidden in Europe. New Zealand has also banned mulesing since 2018. Only Australia, the country known for its merinos, is still engaged in sensitive debates on the subject, as Australian breeders continue to defend the brutal procedure. In August last year, the Australian Wool Producers Association opposed a law that would have abolished mulesing by 2022.
What does mulesing-free mean for the sheep?
In conclusion, mulesing-free simply means that the breeder commits to not mulesing his sheep and thus promises to ensure the mental and physical well-being of the merinos. After all, healthy, happy sheep still produce the most beautiful wool, don't they?