British Retail Consortium (BRC) members are committed to sourcing wool and woollen products from farms where the highest animal welfare practices have been adopted to protect sheep from blowfly strike. The BRC recognises the very real threat that blowfly strike poses to sheep in countries like Australia but the use of surgical mulesing, which causes pain and suffering to animals, is not acceptable to British retailers or their customers.
As part of our wider sustainability agenda, BRC members aim to improve the welfare of all merino and fine wool producing animals by sourcing non-mulesed or ceased mulesed wool. After consulting with the RSPCA (UK), the body most trusted by UK consumers on animal welfare issues, the only acceptable long-term solution to surgical mulesing is through selective breeding. However, until such time as breeding programmes take full effect, interim strategies such as integrated farm management practices and the use of intradermals must be adopted to reduce risk of flystrike. Some retailers may, as a transitional arrangement, also accept wool from flocks where clips have been used.
We acknowledge that the Australian wool industry has already taken a number of steps towards achieving this goal but as of 2011, these efforts fall short of our requirements and customer expectations. To meet the demand for responsibly sourced products, the BRC requires changes and improvements in the following key areas:
1) Transparency in the supply chain: The BRC requires mandatory listing of all Australian wool through the National Wool Declaration (NWD), with the status of mulesing clearly listed on Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) documents:
- Non-Mulesed (NM): none of the sheep in the flock have been mulesed;
- Ceased Mulesed (CM): the practice of mulesing is no longer carried out; and
- Pain Relief (PR): pain relief is applied to the sheep after mulesing has been carried out by
an accredited practitioner.
2) Eradication of surgical mulesing: BRC members aim to source wool from sheep that have
not been surgically mulesed, even under conditions of pain relief.
3) Alternative practices: The BRC welcomes continued investment into effective long-term
alternatives to surgical mulesing through selective breeding, in conjunction with the implementation of integrated farm management practices aimed to prevent and control blowfly strike in the absence of mulesing.
We hope this document helps provide the leadership needed for an industry consensus behind mandatory sign up to the NWD and the eradication of mulesing. To facilitate, the BRC will continue to work in close partnership with key stakeholders including Australian wool growers and their associations, as well as non-governmental organisations and government officials in the UK and Australia. Continual progress towards these goals is required to increase supply of assured high welfare status merino and fine wools and we look forward to future updates on these achievements.
Date: 3 May, 2011
Director of Food and Sustainability