Pain relief mandatory for mulesing in Victoria and perhaps soon in NSW
Agriculture Victoria is reminding producers and contractors that if they do conduct mulesing on lambs, it is now a requirement to administer a registered pain-relief product.
Mandatory provisions came into effect from 1 July 2020, as part of Victoria's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Regulations, 2019. New South Wales has been debating regulating the practice, whilst in South Australia the practice is unregulated - although data suggests that the use of pain relief is the widespread SA industry practice.
Mulesing is the removal of wool-bearing flesh from around the buttocks of sheep to prevent faeces from collecting on the wool, attracting maggot infestation.
Meat & Livestock Australia recommends conducting mulesing when the lambs are as young as possible, whilst also recommending breeding sheep less likely to be prone to flystrike.
The Victorian government states that the mandated use of a registered pain relief product ensures better animal welfare outcomes for Victorian sheep and helps to protect the reputation of Victoria’s sheep industry.
Agriculture Victoria Program Manager Livestock Welfare Compliance, Rachael Holmes said only pain relief products that are registered for use on sheep by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) can be used when mulesing.
“As with any agricultural or veterinary chemicals used on farm, producers should keep records of the pain-relieving products used.”
“Details should include the product trade name, species/location of animals, identification numbers/description, the date the treatment has been applied and the dose rate used.”
“The use of pain relief products during the mulesing/marking procedure ensure Victoria’s sheep industry operating best-practice welfare and supports the sustainability of our industry,” Dr Holmes added.
Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group (VFF) president Len Vallance, supported the imposition of the mandatory pain relief requirement, saying more than 90 per cent of Victorian farmers already used pain relief:
"The lambs do so much better - it's a money-making exercise, to use pain relief."
Mr Vallance said he, like many others, would like to see more effective methods of preventing flystrike, hoping science and genetics will eventually solve the problem.
Animal activists have previously campaigned for boycotts against Australian wool until the practice of mulesing ceases altogether.
The NSW Agriculture Minister indicated last year that his government would move to expand animal cruelty provisions to allow prosecutions if mulesing was conducted without pain relief.
In 2019, NSW Farmers voted for an industry-based - not mandatory - approach to ensure pain relief was used by all producers.
The RSPCA in South Australia notes that New Zealand has banned the practice and acknowledged that whilst not regulated in South Australia, Animal Ethics Pty Ltd (the Australian company that developed the anaesthetic spray Tri-Solfen®) reported in 2015 that 82 per cent of lambs undergoing mulesing in SA between 2013 and 2015 received pain relief via anaesthetic sprays. The RSPCA claimed at the time that was the highest rate among sheep producers using the sprays in Australia.
Farming groups have maintained that the most human approach to preventing harm to the animals is to continue mulesing.