Merino wool has long been heralded as a super fabric - offering the perfect combination of performance, comfort and luxury. Nature’s answer to thermoregulation, merino wool has the brilliant ability to absorb your body’s moisture vapours and evaporate them outside of the fabric when it’s hot, and when it’s cold, condensing the moisture back inside of the material - keeping you nice and warm. Both antibacterial and odour resistant, there’s less need to wash the garment, it’s non allergenic, UV resistant and renewable and biodegradable. We told you this was no ordinary fabric!
This all sounds great - so why do merino wool garments need to be “mulesing-free”?
The merino sheep graze the highlands of Australia and New Zealand, and have done since the 12th century. Due to their woolly wrinkles and folds in their skin, particularly around their tail and breech (buttocks) area, blowflies are susceptible to lay eggs in this area - leading to maggots feeding off the flesh. This is called flystrike, and can be fatal.
“Mulesing” is a practice that has been used by farmers to prevent this, cutting flaps of skin from around a lamb’s breech and tail. As the wound heals, it forms bare, stretched scar tissue with no folds or wrinkles. However, mulesing is a painful procedure that is carried out between weeks 2-10 of age. It is performed without anaesthesia, and it’s been recorded that the pain is long lasting, at least up to 48 hours or several days into weeks. The area takes a full 5-7 weeks to completely heal. It’s been noted by RSPCA that mulesing lambs will exhibit behavioural indicators of pain during this time; less time feeding, lying, socialising and losing weight. Following mulesing, lambs have been found to avoid humans, indicative of fear from the procedure.
So what is the alternative?
There’s been huge pressure on the wool industry in the past decade to stop using merino wool that has been made with mulesing involved. Some alternatives to getting flystrike have been targeted breeding, injections, and biological control over blowflies.
What can we do as consumers?
When buying merino wool, always look for labels that guarantee sheep farming without mulesing. One of these is the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). This uses the brilliant "Five Freedoms": 1. Freedom from hunger and thirst, 2. Freedom from discomfort, 3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease (this includes mulesing-free husbandry), 4. Freedom to express normal behaviour, 5. Freedom from fear and distress.
Shop some of our options for mulesing free merino wool:
Alex Rainbow Jumper. RWS Extra Fine Merino Wool blend.
Rib Lounge Pants - 100% mulesing-free merino wool.
Prelia Cardigan - 100% mulesing-free merino wool.
Laumès Sweater - 100% mulesing-free merino wool.