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Responsible Wool Standard Prohibits Mulesing

Textile Exchange (TE) has updated the drafted Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).

In TE’s second stakeholder review of the RWS, clothing brands told the nonprofit they would ban the standard if it allowed mulesing to continue among Australian sheep farmers.

Mulesing, which is the process of removing a small skin area from the back of sheep to prevent wool growth and blowfly infestation, has been a long-debated topic between animal rights groups and members of the Australian wool industry.

Animal rights groups argue that it is a horrible procedure for the sheep, since most of the time no pain relief medicine is administered. Although the Australian wool industry has taken precautions against mulesing, including using other procedures such as crutching and jetting, it’s still popular in Australia, the world’s number one nation for fine wool.

During a mulesing panel discussion held to address this greater wool issue and understand perspectives of all parties involved, some individuals advocated that mulesing be allowed with some form of pain medication, but the clothing brands and animal welfare groups involved strongly disagreed with the proposition.

To that end, TE announced its final RWS requirement for mulesing: AW4.15 Mulesing is prohibited and farms with ceased mulesing status are accepted NC-1. This new guideline was shown in the latest RWS Mulesing Position Paper.

Although mulesing is prohibited under the RWS’ new guidelines, TE also acknowledged that this issue wouldn’t be resolved immediately, since the supply and demand system of non-mulesed wool may be very slow. For Australian farmers, RWS said that mulesed sheep are acceptable as long as any lambs born in 2016 don’t go through the process.

TE also provided guidelines for concerned clothing brands, encouraging them to source 100 percent RWS wool and source any outside wool from sheep that receive pain medication when mulesed. TE also said that clothing brands should work with their supply chains to support the transition to non-mulesing and also pay fair prices for any sourced wool.

The RWS International Working Group is working on new initiatives to solve this problem among all involved in the Australian wool industry.