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AWI adopts new animal health & welfare flystrike prevention policy
27
Jul '09
Australian Wool Innovation has adopted a new flystrike prevention policy. The new policy supports a scientific fact-based approach to ensure the optimal health, welfare and productivity of Australian sheep, and to ensure they are protected from the risks of disease and death.

AWI acknowledges that the 2010 mulesing “deadline” is unlikely to be reached for welfare reasons, based on scientific grounds.

AWI warns that pursuing a “deadline” approach to the phase out of mulesing is not based on sound health and welfare science, and risks a serious deterioration in the welfare of sheep and/or a critical negative impact on the production and supply of wool.

Scientific publications show that without mulesing, the risk of attack of flystrike is 40-100%, and 1-3% with mulesing. The new policy has been adopted after consultation with woolgrowers, industry representative bodies and other stakeholders.It is based on the scientific evidence regarding the risk of suffering and death from flystrike in the absence of mulesing,the availability of effective analgesia, the state of development of alternatives and the production status of the industry.

This evidence has confirmed that sheep in Australia remain highly vulnerable to flystrike due to the Lucilia cuprina blowfly, and that mulesing plays a crucial role to prevent the disease and to support wool production. There has been progress to remove the need for the procedure through genetic research and breeding and the development of alternative methods of breech wrinkle removal, such as clips and intradermals. Nevertheless, these options are not sufficiently developed to support a wholesale cessation of the procedure in 2010. Breeding strategies will take many years to be fully effective. Clips are now commercially available, but are not suitable for all sheep. An intradermal is in development. In the meantime there have been significant welfare advances in surgical practice and the development of topical anaesthetics to allow the procedure (where still needed) to be undertaken with minimal discomfort to lambs and in accordance with acceptable welfare standards for surgical procedures in livestock.

The new policy pursues a step-wise, ethical and sustainable approach to support the safe and successful phase out of the procedure over time as R&D and breeding progresses. AWI's commitment to a fast-tracked R&D program aimed at removing the need for mulesing remains firm. Since 2005, AWI has invested $A20 million on such R&D. In addition, AWI will now also focus on enhancing analgesic options to ensure humane animal care in the interim, including delivery of practical and affordable pre-operative analgesic medications.

AWI will establish a Flystrike Prevention Committee to monitor progress in flystrike control.

The National Wool Declaration enables farmers to declare their wool as either Non-Mulesed (NM), Ceased Mulesed (CM wool comes from farms where farmers no longer practice mulesing) or pain relief treated (PR). AWI will recommend to AWEX that the National Wool Declaration also include a category for wool from clip treated sheep. This provides transparency and choice in the marketplace.

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