Merino wool is incredibly popular. Which is not surprising at all: It is not only thermo-regulating and naturally breathable, but also wonderfully soft due to its fine fibres. Unfortunately, the so-called mulesing is often practised during its production. For this reason, we started making our own yarns.
What is mulesing and where is it practised?
The main part of the globally produced merino wool comes from Australia, a smaller part from New Zealand. The sheep in this part of the world often are subject to flystrike, and the infections caused by this can be lethal.
Especially the feculent skin folds around the breech (buttocks) are prone to infestation of the sheep blowfly and its maggots. Mulesing, named after the Australian sheep farmer John Mules, is used as a measure to prevent this infestation. During the procedure, strips of skin around the breech of the lambs are cut off, and the wound is left to heal without tending to it. The smooth scar tissue that forms after healing is less likely to attract flies. To reduce costs, mulesing is often practised without administering anaesthesia or pain-relief during or after the procedure.
We strongly object to this cruel process, and the founding of our company is a result of the shock upon this cruelty.
Mulesing has been banned in New Zealand since 2018. In Australia, however, legislation only gives a recommendation allowing wool farmers to decide whether they mules their sheep or not. Every year over ten million lambs in Australia are subject to mulesing, which does not even solve the problem of flystrike.
What can be done against mulesing?
Regularly cutting back and shearing the wool in the sensitive areas is not a common practice as it is time-consuming and therefore means high costs. Applying insecticides also incurs high costs and additionally presents health risks, which does not make it a valuable alternative either.
The most sustainable solution would be animal-friendly breeding, moving away from breeds with excessive skinfolds and wool growth. This would be a natural way to ensure that the sheep are less prone to flystrike.
In the meantime, we can pay close attention to the origin of the wool, and source it solely from regions where mulesing is banned or uncommon, like South America, for instance. In the dry, cool climate of Patagonia the animals are in no danger of flystrike.
Consumers can watch out for labels like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and RWS (Responsible Wool Standard), that ban mulesing and guarantee traceability and the compliance with fixed standards during production.
What do we do?
We founded Rosy Green Wool in 2012 because we wanted to produce better yarns without animal suffering.
Our wool comes exclusively from controlled organic animal farming in Argentina, and is guaranteed to be free of mulesing, chemical sheep dips or long slaughter transport. With the GOTS label, independent certifiers monitor us and our supply chain.
For this, we’ve been rewarded: The animal welfare organisation Four Paws has published their first ranking of merino hand-knitting yarns in Germany regarding mulesing in 2020. Within this ranking, we’ve been awarded the title “Platinum Champion - guaranteed mulesing-free” - the only one of 28 companies so far, unfortunately.
We also try to raise awareness whenever and wherever we can. Rosy shared her knowledge on the German TV show Planet Wissen; while Patrick has campaigned at GOTS for a more thorough monitoring of the compliance with the binding standards in Australia.
Furthermore, Four Paws has launched the campaign Wool with a butt where you can sign this petition against mulesing. Together we can raise awareness, demand Australia to abandon this procedure, and finally achieve a happy life for the sheep.