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Have your say: Mulesing

Sheep that have had skin removed
Animal rights groups say mulesing is an inhumane procedure
On Thursday's programme, Wendy Carlisle reported on a row being played out between animal rights groups and the Australian wool industry.

We asked for your comments on the issues that our programme raised.

This debate has now closed.

A selection of your comments are below.

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source

I am a staunch believer in organic solutions to farming in Australia.

Australia in most parts is hot and fly blown in summer. It does not offer the fertile countryside of England.

I hope a good alternative to Mulesing can be found. However, I do not believe chemical pesticides are a good alternative. They can be absorbed into animal flesh and residue in the wool requires more chemicals to clean it.

Vets and anaesthesia are not a cheap alternative and I think they would make wool returns negligible on top of costs associated with drought and market conditions such as wool boycotts.

Maybe Australia needs to stop supplying wool.
Liz , Australia

It sickens me to think this kind of dark ages type action is being carried out in 2005. Those poor sheep.

Surely a vaccination could be developed
Annie, UK

This is positively barbaric. Farmers in the Uk and elsewhere manage without resorting to such cruel and inhumane practices.

They should think more about showing compassion to their animals than they do about profit.

Death would be preferable to both fly-strike and mulesing. Perhaps the farmers should learn a little more about husbandry and employ staff to check their sheep and put any that are suffering out of their misery. Cost is not the be all and end all.
Pam, UK

People who live on the other side of the world and do not look after sheep should not condemn us based on sensationalist propaganda from groups like PETA.

Sheep farmers raise and care for their animals, feed them, protect them from predators, drought, famine, injury and disease.

Wool growers have donated millions of dollars to fund research into effective alternatives
Meredith Sheil, Australia
It is heart breaking to see a sheep struggling due to a maggot infestation, and we do what we can to protect them from this.

Chemicals can help, but they do not, and cannot, prevent it adequately.

Wool growers have donated millions of dollars to fund research into effective alternatives, which has resulted in the development of pain killers - available in six months - and new pain-free alternatives that are projected to be available in the next to two to three years.
Meredith Sheil, Australia

Australian farmers - unlike those in the US and the Europe - are not paid a government subsidy for farming.

Our farmers have to compete against the subsidised farmers of the US and the European Union.

The sad truth is the majority of Australian wool farmers quite literally cannot afford to supply analgesia
Meg Thornton, Australia
As a result, farming in Australia is a very marginal industry. Profits are extremely slim, and the costs have to be calculated very carefully in order just to break even.

Given this economic reality, the sad truth is the majority of Australian wool farmers quite literally cannot afford to supply analgesia for 2-3000 sheep.

To do so would raise the costs of the fleece and meat to a point where it would be uncompetitive.

I'd be interested in knowing whether people would be as willing to purchase "ethically grown" wool products if they were higher priced.

There is a cost for everything, and that includes ethics.
Meg Thornton, Australia

I cannot believe Peta, the boycotters of Australian Wool, and the BBC, are being so narrow-minded.

Fly-strike is a fatal, flesh-eating disease. I would much rather have some skin cut from me than being eaten alive.

At the moment this is the only way fly-strike can be treated effectively.

Peta should be concentrating its time and efforts on raising funds for alternatives rather than putting - already pressured) - Australian farmers out of business.
Daniel, UK

This is not the only issue in sheep farming that needs addressing from an animal welfare perspective or the only country that needs to address them.

Singling out Australian farmers in this way by an American animal rights group makes me highly suspicious. Is Peta saying that wool from all other countries is ok?
Elizabeth, England

Mulesing sounds far better to me than being eaten alive by blowfly larvae. if I were given a choice between the two.
Kit, UK

Just because animals cannot communicate using English does not mean they are dumb, don't feel pain, or experience stress and mental trauma.

Lack of education is the cause of most of the current problems.
Jimmy, US

With all the stunning scientific and technological advances of the last few decades, I find it hard to believe that there isn't a more advanced and less cruel alternative.
Carl, England

We're talking sheep here not humans. Can't you worry about the real troubles in this world?
Pete, UK

I am a practising vet and have seen fly-strike on sheep and on pet rabbits.

When it occurs it is horrific, but I fully agree with Peta that mulesing is a barbaric and totally unnecessary practice. T

Australian farmers need to accept that these are living, sentient animals
Peter Culpin, UK
We have lots of products which can be applied to the sheep to prevent fly- strike.

Applying sprays would involve a much less labour-intensive process than mulesing.

The flies are not attracted to the folds of skin but to the faeces soaked wool around the animals rear. Good husbandry is all that is required, not mutilation.

Australian farmers need to accept that these are living, sentient animals capable of feeling, and should care for them accordingly.
Peter Culpin, London UK

Animals depend on their owners for health, welfare and survival, and if we are to make a living from their meat or wool, we have an obligation to provide for them.

Happy, healthy animals are more productive, grow better and make the farmer more cash in the long run. I know, I am one.
Alasdair, UK

I have to treat fly-strike rams, ewes and lambs.

Flies can kill a sheep in two to four days by blood poisoning as the maggots dissolve the skin and flesh.

I hate seeing animals suffer. At the moment, mulesing is the main way to stop this horrible death. Yes, we need a better way and we are working towards it but we're not there yet.
Rob, Australia

I will definitely be boycotting Australian wool. Animals are treated far too casually, as walking lumps of meat, and it is time that people began to consider them with more care.

I am a vegetarian precisely because of the cruelty to animals.
Rosemary, UK

Thanks to the BBC and Peta for bringing yet another way that we are barbarians to our attention.

Thanks to the BBC and Peta for bringing yet another way that we are barbarians to our attention
Kimberly, USA
Both mulesing and fly-strike need to be combated. Now that more of us know about the issue - thanks to coverage and to a boycott - I believe that more effort will be put into finding less outrageously painful ways to prevent fly-strike.

Too bad it takes so much human effort to get some farmers to consider that surgery without anaesthesia is unkind to say the least.
Kimberly, USA

I was bought up on a property where most of the revenue came from growing beef, lamb and mutton.

Fly-strike is one of the most horrible things I have ever seen.

My father performed mulesing as a way of preventing further pain for the animal.

When a more humane option is available I can assure you that Australian farmers will change over.

Peta has sensationalised this issue.

Do not condemn farmers who are doing their best to save their animals and provide world class products.
Samantha, Australia

I am sickened that this is allowed to happen. How can Australia's government allow this to be legal?
Anon, UK

I am a staunch animal-lover, was a vegetarian for a decade, have volunteered for the RSPCA and for PETA.

When I lived in Australia, we ran a small plot and allowed a sheep farmer to run about 100 sheep on our pastures.

The man merely dumped them there to die. No food, care, shearing, mulesing... nothing.

Chemical residue in or on wool would be considered unacceptable
Rain, Finland and Australia
Soon, they started dropping like flies from pestilence and malnutrition. Add to that, they were, for the most part, pregnant.

I did not have the money to care for the animals and in the end I was forced to end their suffering myself.

There are far worse forms of cruelty than a procedure that may seem shocking, barbaric and bloody, but that has a proven long-term benefit.

As for pesticide... well you should see the sheer size of a sheep ranch, and the huge number of sheep that exist on one.

Also, pests and vermin develop resistance to chemicals, plus chemical residue in or on wool would be considered unacceptable.

Most Australian farmers I have met, are very much into the welfare of their animals.
Rain, Finland and Australia

Mulesing is cruel. At least trained vets and analgesic pain relief should be used, and new pain-free forms of blow-fly protection investigated.

I hope AWI does the right thing, stops fighting Peta and instead works with it
L Pipkin, UK
Until I hear the Australian government has outlawed this current horrendous practice, I will not buy Australian wool.

Up to now, I have always had much respect for the Aussie care of animals.

I hope AWI does the right thing, stops fighting Peta and instead works with it to promote animal welfare and products I am happy to buy.
L. Pipkin , UK

Chemical trials are currently taking place to make this procedure less stressful for the sheep.

All I can say is thank goodness for synthetic fibres
Jules, UK
Let's hope it's proven and economical enough to proceed with.

Until this time, all I can say is thank goodness for synthetic fibres and my conscience.
Jules, UK

This programme actually made me feel ill.

I thought I'd heard just about everything we've managed to inflict upon our fellow companions on this planet but this is outrageous.

Sheep are not stupid. I know, I've had a pet one. He thought he was one of the dogs.

I am going to mail this article to all my friends and shall boycott Australian wool
Sharon Huyshe, United Kingdom
At the moment I have a badly broken leg and the pain I've endured through it with painkillers has been huge. The mere thought of having my bottom cut off with shears is beyond imagination.

How on earth do they not die of shock or infection?

I am going to mail this article to all my friends and shall boycott Australian wool until this hideous practice is stopped.
Sharon Huyshe, United Kingdom

It's about time Aussie wool farmers were brought up to speed on modern attitudes such as caring for animals' feelings.

At the same time, many of us eat sheep, so why should we care about a little procedure that keeps them clean?
Rosie, Australia

I've seen sheep with fly-strike, it's horrible, much worse than mulesing. But wool is a safe, renewable resource.

Farmers do care about their animals
Ian, Australia
Cotton destroys the environment, synthetic fabrics are based on oil.

Farmers do care about their animals and would change if someone could come up with a practical alternative. Don't threaten them, offer solutions!
Ian, Australia

By no means are all sheep in Australia mulesed. Only merinos (the wool sheep) and even then not all of them.

I run a different breed and do not mules. I also market my sheep in a way that means they do not end up in the hideous live sheep trade to the Middle East.

Mulesing is undoubtedly cruel. But running merino sheep in many parts of Australia without mulesing them would be much more cruel.

Fly-strike is a major problem in the wool industry. In general, sheep survive mulesing and die a horrible death if fly-struck.

The only working alternative to mulesing involves dowsing the rear end of the sheep with heavy duty chemicals
Barry Calderbank, Tasmania sheep-farmer
From an animal welfare point of view, the solution is obvious: don't try to run merino sheep in those areas where blowfly is a major threat.

If there were to be a sudden ban, a huge number of sheep would become flyblown.

At the moment, the only working alternative to mulesing involves dowsing the rear end of the sheep - or in some areas even the whole sheep - regularly with some heavy duty chemicals. But that would be worse than mulesing.

Some of the great minds in the wool industry are investing their energies in selectively breeding a type of merino that will be sufficiently resistant to blowfly strike that mulesing will be unnecessary.
Barry Calderbank, sheep-farmer, Australia

There has to be a better way. Think of what has been done for flea infestations in dogs with long term repellents.

Anaesthesia at the very least - either injected or topical - is a viable alternative.
Julie Corbin, USA

People are fighting to stop a procedure that causes a little pain now in order to stop a lot of pain later ending in death!

I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of the animal rights groups
Bruce, USA
I think that the lamb herself would think this trade-off is a no-brainer.

Let me experience a little pain now to make me immune from a greater and graver danger.

Those trying to stop this practice are doing the sheep a greater disservice.

I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of the animal rights groups.
Bruce, USA

In this day in age do we really have to say out loud that this is inhumane?

This excuse they are using, that "the sheep don't show emotion therefore it must not hurt," is insanity.

We can only hope that enough opposition will put a swift end to this medieval practice
Carla, USA
They are doing what they need to in order to protect their investment and get paid.

These people are going about their routine without any moral thought or judgement.

Australia is one of my favourite places in the world and is home to a fantastic society.

We can only hope that enough opposition will put a swift end to this medieval practice.

Come on Australia. You're not that behind!
Carla, USA

This is a barbaric and cruel way to treat animals all under the auspices of helping them in the long run.

The very least that should be done for the animals is pain relief.

People are just terrible to treat a creature so thoughtlessly and with so little regard.
Nancy Scott, USA

I'd never heard of mulesing. Thanks to the BBC for bringing this to my attention.

I for one will not be buying anything made from Australian wool
G Horne, UK
I for one will not be buying anything made from Australian wool until the practice stops, and I will make sure everyone I know hears this shocking news.
G Horne, UK

What about circumcision on babies? Who fights for them?
Pieter, New Zealand

It prevents suffering. It prevents death. It's like banning inoculation needles for children because it hurts their little arms. Please, get some sense. Plus, they are sheep!.
Michael, Australia

Mulesing looks so painful for the animal. I believe there is a less painful and better way of treating the problem.
Sharon, Singapore

Simply put, surgery without anaesthesia is deliberate cruelty. It is not necessary.

If you take labour costs into account, easily administered pesticides would be more humane and save farmers money.
Julie, USA

Mulesing a sheep is like giving a child a vaccination: the child doesn't like it, but it is in the child's interest to have it done.

Peta's campaign is very one-sided. It neglects to mention the benefits of mulesing to the sheep.

If you've ever seen a fly-blown sheep, trust me: for the sheep's sake you'd wish it had been mulesed.

Chemical procedures are currently uneconomical
Mike Australia
Farmers make an enormous effort to carry out mulesing.

They certainly wouldn't do it if it were not necessary.

Chemical procedures are currently uneconomical. If New Yorkers can't stomach it, then they should prepare to pay more for their sweaters.
Mike, Australia

Are you kidding me? Clearly, finding a less painful way of preventing maggots is ideal, but boycotting the wool just because the current way of saving a sheep's life is temporarily painful is ridiculous.

An animal rights group should be supporting the industry and helping to fund research into other options, rather than effectively condemning thousands of animals to death because of loss of revenue, or encouraging eventual death by maggots.

Peta should be ashamed.
Caroline, Oregon, USA

People comparing mulesing in sheep to giving vaccinations to children seem to have missed the point that children don't have their flesh sheared off during the vaccination process.

If mulesing is done to prevent possible further pain for the sheep, why not prevent all pain and use an anaesthetic if this procedure really must be carried out?
Nina, France

I am an animal lover, and a vegan. I also lived on a sheep property in southern New South Wales for five years and have seen all facets of the sheep-breeding operations.

Yes, mulesing hurts sheep. They express pain through their responses to the process and, I can tell you, it is an extremely unpleasant process.

However, I have also seen sheep die slow and agonising deaths from fly-strike and I know that this is a far, far worse fate than mulesing.

I have also seen sheep die slow and agonising deaths from fly-strike
Robin, Australia
The best way I can describe it is that having a tooth pulled is painful and unpleasant, but nowhere near as painful and unpleasant as letting the thing rot in your mouth, eventually causing blood poisoning.

Sheep do not die from mulesing. They can, however, die if the wool and skin around the tail is left to attract flies.

If there is a better way to avoid fly-strike in sheep then I would support it absolutely, but to my knowledge none exists - yet - that can be administered efficiently to the scale required for large flocks.

I understand that some breeds of sheep do not require the practice, so perhaps selective breeding is an answer.
Robin, Australia

I think I am the only one left who believes that animal suffering is irrelevant.

Let's get our priorities right... they are just animals
Adrian, UK
Once we have stopped all human suffering, then we can possibly start doing something about animal suffering, but not before.

Let's get our priorities right... they are just animals.
Adrian, UK

The truth is that no flesh is removed by mulesing, loose skin is removed.

Loose skin is removed too, when 97% of American boys who are circumcised are done so without anaesthetic.

Mulesing saves millions of sheep from a cruel death by fly-strike, which has to be seen to be believed.

Peta have suggested no practical options, but farmers are financing the research of one.

The fact is that Aussie sheep in general are far better off and lead pretty natural lives, compared to what is happening in the US and Europe with factory farming.
Steve, Australia

There are already studies in Australia to find ways of phasing out mulesing such as genetically breeding "bare bottom" sheep, and the application of a chemical to kill the hair follicles.

Peta knows of these! It has had discussion with the wool industry. This is just its usual self-serving publicity-seeking.
Rosemary, Australia

I have just read the comments of others on this. I do not belong to any animal rights group, but many of the comments above are nothing short of sick.

If Australian shepherds cannot look after the number of sheep they have properly, they should not keep sheep at all.

I am weeping as I write.
Tess Nash, UK

You animal rights activists haven't a clue about the situation.

It is by far worse for a sheep to get fly-strike and have maggots eating them alive.

Are you telling me that you want Australian farmers to lose their livelihood?
Michael, Australia

Some have asked, "Well what about the mass circumcision of American boys?"

Of course that is also a barbaric; but how can one barbaric practice justify another?
Mikie, USA

I thought wool came without blood and pain, but until this practice is modified I won't buy Australian wool either.

It is too close to the fur industry for my liking
L Yorke, Canada
It is too close to the fur industry for my liking, what with skin being ripped off the animal to make a bigger buck for the human.
L Yorke, Canada

To Adrian who says: "Let's get our priorities right... They are just animals," I thought that's what humans where too!

Sorry I didn't realise there was an animal kingdom and a separate human kingdom!

Those that lack compassion for animals often lack compassion for their fellow human beings, this has been proven.

It is right that we should consider the suffering of all beings. I hope a more humane solution can be found.
Amy, England

Effecting change in the farming community can often be quite challenging, especially when an existing procedure produces the desired end-result.

But people are gradually becoming more knowledgeable about animal welfare and when new information on animal suffering comes to light, we should take positive steps to alleviate it if we consider ourselves to be part of a civilised society.
Julia, UK

Keeping a non-native animal in an environment which leaves it vulnerable to disease is the problem here.

It is unreasonable to suggest that the onus should be on Peta to find workable solutions
Kay, UK
And it is unreasonable to suggest that the onus should be on Peta - rather than the wool industry - to find workable solutions to the problem.

It is in the farming industry's interests to regulate itself, which includes research and development into new husbandry techniques.

A consumer boycott at this stage is unlikely to bring about the collapse of the Australian wool industry, or to lead to the "cruel death of millions of Australian sheep" as there will always be people like Adrian, and I think his standpoint on animal welfare is deeply depressing.
Kay, UK

If we're able to create a sheep in a lab then I'm sure we can develop a cheap cure for mulesing with a little research and development.

Since these farmers make their living and much more out of these beings' wool, I think they should spare a little money in research to spare them a lot of pain.
Davide, Italy

I will never buy any Australian product until this practice stops. Thank you.
Patricia, US

I think things with Animal Liberation have got out of hand. I worked on a NSW sheep farm during my youth.

Mulesing is probably a better fate than fly-strike which untreated is certain death.

The degree of mulesing varies and usually done at the same time as castration of male lambs.

Mulesing does not involve removing flesh, only the loose skin is removed
name here
And it is worth pointing out that mulesing does not involve removing flesh. Only the loose skin is removed.

The survival rate of this procedure is excellent as it is done prior to warmer weather to reduce the incidence of fly borne infection.

I do not think anything is as effective as this procedure and agree that analgesics should be used to ease unnecessary animal suffering.
Richard Blackman, UK

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