Two hundred brands commit to remove ‘mulesed wool’ from supply chain

In a significant move towards improved animal welfare, more than 200 brands have pledged their support to Humane Society International (HSI) Australia’s campaign to eliminate mulesing in the wool industry. The growing list of brands can be found in HSI’s Better Wool Guide for 2023.

Mulesing is the controversial practice of removing strips of the skin of a lamb’s rear and is often done without pain relief. It is often done to wrinkled lambs to prevent a painful disease caused by flies known as “flystrike”.

In Australia, an estimated 10 million merino lambs are subjected to mulesing yearly – equivalent to 19 lambs per minute. It is also the only country where mulesing occurs after New Zealand banned the practice in 2018.

Today, an estimated 10 per cent of wool growers have stepped up and are producing non-mulesed wool by breeding plain-bodied sheep without wrinkles, making them naturally resistant to flystrike.

Prominent brands like VF, Levis Strauss & Co, Adidas, and Nike, are now ranked in Tier 1 after strengthening their commitments since last year.

Newcomers include Aussie brands Koala, Spell, Afends and Zulu & Zephyr, joining the ranks of Country Road Group, Gorman, Target, Big W, The Iconic, David Jones and Myer in their support for better welfare measures.

George Dolphin, animal welfare campaigner for HSI Australia, said Australia is the only country in the world still supplying mulesed wool, “and consumers are making it clear that it is time the cruelty stops”.

“The conversation on mulesed wool has shifted dramatically in recent years to one of condemnation, so seeing so many brands becoming more public about their opposition and supporting a kinder solution is encouraging,” Dolphin said.

Increasingly, brands and retailer groups are setting time-bound commitments to phase out mulesed wool, verified through robust certification schemes such as the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), ZQ Merino, and Nativa.

Meanwhile, brands such as Surya, Neem London, and Joop! have avoided Australian wool altogether, sourcing their merino wool exclusively from countries that can guarantee mulesing-free wool.

“With so many brands ditching mulesed wool by 2025 or 2030, it is a strong market signal that the days of mulesing lambs are numbered,” Dolphin said. “It’s time to protect sheep from flystrike by breeding plain-bodied flocks that don’t attract flies. And the sooner we see legislation to fast-track this progress, the better for the welfare of lambs and the Australian wool industry’s reputation.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication Inside Retail