Cruelty to Sheep, Australian Style, Mulesing

Mark Gordon BrownStarred Page By Mark Gordon Brown, 19th Feb 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Activism

Crutching is a humane practice done on some wool sheep to prevent fly strike, however, mulesing is cruel and barbaric.

What is Mulesing

Mulesing came about when one sloppy Australian farmer, John Mules, cut the skin off some of his sheep while crutching them with hand held shearers (they look like large scissors). He noticed that after the wounds healed, the sheep did not grow wool in that area. “Good Idea” he thought.. and the practice became widespread throughout Australia.

Crutching is the process of only removing the wool from the rump of these sheep, done to prevent the problem of "Fly Strike" in which flies lay eggs on the dirty rumps of sheep and the eggs hatch into maggots which have been known to eat the sheep alive, and kill it!

In Mulesing the skin from both sides of a sheep's rump is cut off, while the animal is fully conscious, and not sedated. In some cases the skin of the tail is also removed. The sheep is then left to "recover and heal", a process that takes roughly 4 weeks.

More Information

These poor lambs are at risk for tetanus, blood loss, stress, and fly infestations due to having an open wound. When mature, the ewes are at greater risk for cancerous growths around the mutilated area, and vulva cancer.

Mulesing is pretty much only done in the Merino sheep breed, a sheep that has more skin around the rump area, and is done when the animals are still young. It is banned from being performed on sheep over 12 months of age. The lambs are restrained in a device that holds their heads and legs, and thrusts their rump into the air where a certified mulesinger cuts off a the skin from an area about the size of a dinner plate.

Australia is the only country that regularly practices Mulesing, it is banned as cruel in most other countries and been phased out in New Zealand. In Australia several million lambs are mutilated in this way every year.

What Can You Do to End this Cruelty?

There are alternatives to Mulesing, crutching and tail docking, being the best. When crutching is done with electric shears, rather than hand shears, the risk to the sheep is very small, it may get a nick or two, but most suffer no major loss as with mulesing. The downside is that crutching is required every year before blowfly season. Tail Docking is done when the lamb is only a few days old, in combination crutching and tail docking can help prevent many cases of fly strike.

*note: Tail docking is done to the lambs who later under go mulesing.

Some Merino sheep breeders are trying to breed a Merino sheep that has less skin around its rump so as to not “require” the animals to go through this torture.

Concerned Australians, and animal rights activists, should lobby the Australian government, and agricultural industry to either ban the practice of mulesing, or to require painkillers and antiseptics to be used at the time. Please write to:

Western Australian Department of Agriculture
3 Barron Hay Court
South Perth 6151
Western Australia


Special thanks to Live Export Shame for their Pictures!

Castrating and Tail Docking

Our Sheep Blog

Cruelty in the Karakul Sheep Industry

Sheep Breeds for Wool Production

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Animal Rights, Australia, Bum, Cruel, Cruelty, Cutting, Flystrike, Lamb, Lambs, Merino, Mulesing, Rump, Sheep, Wool

Meet the author

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
Raised in Michigan, I have a son who recently joined the Military. I am living in Canada with my wife where we have a hobby farm.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
19th Feb 2011 (#)

Anyone who does that to a helpless animals needs to have it done to him and I'll volunteer to do it to them.

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author avatar Retired
19th Feb 2011 (#)

I agree with Jerry...animal cruelty is cruelty. I'll be there to help out.

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author avatar Carol
19th Feb 2011 (#)

Oh that does sound cruel Mark! You certainly know about sheep, I had no idea this sort of practice goes on.

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author avatar Retired
19th Feb 2011 (#)

I read this, and it makes me mad that what "seemed" like agood idea (and I use that word sparingly) really is just another cruelty.

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author avatar christopheranton
19th Feb 2011 (#)

Thanks for highlighting this barbaric practice,
one which I had not heard of before.

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author avatar igorgriffiths
20th Feb 2011 (#)

Often we need to take a step back and look at the solution we have devised, often as in this case the solution leads to greater problems than the initial one.

This barbaric practice must break the hearts of all responsible Australian shepherds

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author avatar Denise O
21st Feb 2011 (#)

Damn Mark! Just awful! I have to get this out of my head, I had no idea. Thank you for giving us the heads up on this cruel practice, just awful!
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Shaun Jarmen
9th Mar 2011 (#)

Any cruelty done to animals is awful. Crutching is a horrible thing to do to a helpless animal.Thank you for raising awareness

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
9th Mar 2011 (#)

Crutching isnt the bad one.. Mulesing is the bad one...
Crutching - if done correctly only removes wool - not skin.

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author avatar johnnydod
10th Mar 2011 (#)

Glad to see you around Mark, I know sheep are pretty thick, but they are still animals like us and deserve more respect, these articles of yours are so interesting and informative.
Keep up your great work with your writing and your caring farming.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
11th Mar 2011 (#)

After keeping sheep as pets, and seeing their "softer" side, I just found this sickening. It's no different than cutting the rump off a 5 - 6 month old puppy without pain killers.

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author avatar Christine Riches
5th Apr 2011 (#)

sadly we dont know the half that goes on in the animal world that we humans do, there is so much cruelty done to animals its unbelievable

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author avatar dlist
12th Apr 2011 (#)

what do people want again after shearing his wool that make the sheep nude and you want to make the sheep have unnecessary suffering just because a stupid idea

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author avatar Carolyn Cordon
21st Apr 2011 (#)

A fly struck sheep is a sad and tormented creature, but proper management, that is crutching at the correct time, is the good way to go. This article is great - it introduces city dwellers to some realities of country life. The flies in Australia are an ever present pest!

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
8th Dec 2012 (#)

This is torture , and I agree with all who think so . It is barbaric and evil and should be condemned . Thank you for sharing what goes on though , and also for showing us that not all farmers are cruel to their animals. Bless you for that .

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