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Mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep to prevent flystrike (myiasis). The wool around the buttocks can retain feces and urine, which attracts flies. The scar tissue that grows over the wound does not grow wool, so is less likely to attract the flies that cause flystrike.

Source: Wikipedia

Mulesing is obviously painful for sheep, and often carried out without anaesthetics or painkillers. Typically, it is argued that flystrike can cause a painful and agonising death, so a short experience of pain is the better option for sheep. Also, farmers argue that mulesing is the only practice that can prevent flystrike.

Are there ethical alternatives to mulesing? Are they practical? An ethical alternative would mean at the absolute minimum that sheep are effectively protected from flystrike, and don't suffer pain during the treatment.

  • You could grow the sheep in a country where mulesing wasn't necessary, but that'd be rather inconvenient for sheep farmers located in Australia. – Andrew Grimm Apr 25 '17 at 8:51
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The Wikipedia page you reference also lists more ethical alternatives:

  • Breeding programs to reduce susceptibility
  • Insecticides
  • Topical protein-based treatments which kill wool follicles and tighten skin in the breech area
  • Biological control of blowflies.
  • Plastic clips on the sheep's skin folds which act like castration bands, removing the skin (breech clips).
  • Tea tree oil as blowfly control

Of those, it sounds like the breeding programs are the most sustainable long-term, taking as few as five years to successfully implement, but resulting in less maintenance afterwards.

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