Save Sheep from Painful, Unnecessary Surgery

Target: Merino sheep farmers

Goal: Stop subjecting sheep to painful and unnecessary operations, and use humane alternatives instead

Mulesing, a cruel practice that involves cutting folds of a Merino sheep’s skin around its buttocks, is popular in many countries to prevent fly strike. Fly strike is a disease where fly larvae use the sheep as a food source, burying deep in the wool and into the skin, where they feed off the sheep’s meat. In some cases, the disease can kill sheep.

In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries states in the Standard Operating Procedures that, “While the operation causes some pain, no pre or post operative pain relief measures are used”. Antiseptics, anaesthesia and painkillers are not required by Australian law during or after the procedure but are often applied, as the procedure is known to be painful to the animal.

Furthermore, mulesing is not entirely necessary. While fly strike is a serious threat in many countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, mulesing is not the only option to prevent it. Crutching, the sheering of wool around the buttocks to prevent manure from becoming caught and attracting flies, is one alternative, and chemical treatment is another. Farmers can also breed for plainer sheep with fewer wrinkles, since the wrinkled skin is what puts Merino sheep at more risk from fly strike. Topical protein-based treatments have also been shown to kill wool follicles and tighten skin in the breach area. Another alternative to mulesing is treatment of sheep with tea tree oil as a 1% formulation dip. Tests have shown a 100% kill rate of first stage maggots and a strong repellent effect against adult flies.

Many farmers do not mules their flocks. Wool from their flocks are certified to be ethically sourced. They keep their flocks from contracting fly strike through non-surgical methods, proving that mulesing is not necessary to prevent the disease.

Mulesing does prevent fly strike, but so do other methods. Vigilant farmers need not mules their lambs to keep them from contracting this terrible disease. Tell farmers that mulesing is cruel and unnecessary.


Dear Merino sheep farmers,

Please reconsider mulesing your flocks. Mulesing is known to be a painful practice for sheep, and it isn’t necessary to prevent fly strike. More and more farmers are committing to ceasing mulesing, and are instead using alternatives like topical chemicals and crutching to ethically keep their flocks from getting fly strike. Fly strike is preventable through practices other than mulesing, and alternatives are kinder to the animals.

Breeding sheep for fewer wrinkles is another easy way to prevent fly strike without mulesing. While it may take a few generations, the sheep with no wrinkles to harbor flies are lower maintenance for you and at much lower risk of fly strike. Even a tea tree oil dip at the time you would usually mules your lambs would be more ethical and has shown to be as effective as mulesing. Please reconsider causing your sheep pain for a practice where ethical alternatives exist.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Charles Esson via Wikimedia Commons

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