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Joaquin Phoenix’s Letter to Oz Ag Minister

Written by PETA | September 13, 2007

Joaquin_Phoenix_vegan.jpgI think it may be time for a Gladiator, Quills, and Walk the Line marathon this weekend, because two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix has taken time away from promoting his upcoming films We Own the Night and Reservation Road to write to Australian Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran about the cruel treatment of sheep by the Australian wool industry.

Phoenix focused his letter on the two worst abuses sheep face in Australia: mulesing and live export. In case you’re not familiar with these two terms, here’s a quick explanation. Mulesing is a painful procedure in which gardening shears are used to cut skin and flesh from lambs’ backsides without any painkillers. It is a crude and cheap effort to reduce maggot infestation, even though humane methods exist. Every year, millions of Australian sheep discarded by the wool industry are shipped to the Middle East and North Africa. They are crammed onto multi-tiered ships where they suffer amid the waste of thousands of other animals for weeks on end. Many suffer and die from smothering, starvation, heatstroke, injuries and disease. Each year, tens of thousands of animals die en route—almost 40,000 sheep died in 2005 alone.

Check out Phoenix’s full letter here, and join him in writing Peter McGauran here.

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  • Larissa says:

    Just one more reason I adore Joaquin Phoenix.

  • Will says:

    Ok if u are against mulesing. Take a moment and count how many sheep you have shorn. Most of you wont need a moment because you never have. Mulesing is painful yes but its a much better alternative to have your insides eaten by maggots. If you grossed out by mulesing photos check out the photos of sheep with flystrike. The first difference is that the sheep with flystrike are unable to stand up. Now you see why mulesing is so necessary. It is more inhumane to NOT be mulesing sheep in an area where they may get flystrike. Finding an alternative is not a very good solution as because of the recent drought many famers don’t have the money to find an alternative. Plus boycotting the wool won’t help find an alternative to mulesing it will also result in more sheep dying horribly from flystrike. Mulesing is not as painful as the activist propaganda suggests it is. It is brief instant pain and a heated blade is used to seal of the wound quickly and prevent further infection.

  • Sarah says:

    Why are so many people acting as if Australian farmers DON’T use any methods apart from mulesing to prevent flystrike. In fact farmers crutch sheer their sheep at the correct times have stocking densities to keep diseases at a minimum as well as checking their sheep regularly for flystrike and other pests and diseases. Of course there is pesticide to control blowflies but this is very poisonous and extremely dangerous to use surely no one wants to use such poisonous chemicals. And reducing stock densities to control fly strike? When I last checked blowflies could fly so even if stocking densities were extremely low and it isn’t like sheep are overcrowded on farms anyway blowflies will still be able to fly around and lay their eggs on sheep. To SB How could you ask this “Flystrike can happen on various parts of a sheeps body so how does ripping the skin off their arses help that?” when you claim you own sheep? Mulesing prevents flystrike where sheep are most susceptible to it in the wrinkled folds of skin on their breeches. The folds of skin harbour dirt urine and faeces providing ideal conditions for flystrike and that’s why mulesing is performed so that the folds aren’t there to encourage flystrike. So how could you saw mulesing doesn’t help prevent flystrike? To Jack It would be strongly advisable to tell people to look for alternatives to mulesing on sites other than PETA which don’t consider the breed in question the use of these breeds and the fact that farmers use Integrated Pest Management a variety of methods to control blowflies.

  • SB says:

    Rojo The spanish merino sheep were first brought to spain from North Africa. Merino sheep wouldn’t have had so much wool as you know they have been bred that way for more profit. I did actually say in my post that farmers have a lot of sheep so can’t keep an eye on them all but there are other alternatives as pointed out in many posts on this Peta blog in the past. As far as I’m aware there are farmers that do crutch their sheep mid season to help with flystrike. Those farmers that have thousands of sheep that do mules are the ones that are looking for the cheapeasy alternatives that don’t cut in to their profits too much. If mulesing was the only way to prevent flystrike not my opinion then there is still pain relief but that would also cut in to the profits so not an option. By the way don’t presume you know anything about my set up I don’t have 5 sheep in a small paddock.

  • SB says:

    Rojo Originally in Spain merino sheep wouldn’t have had so much wool as you know they have been bred that way for more profit. I did actually say in my post that farmers have a lot of sheep so can’t keep an eye on them all but there are other alternatives as pointed out in many posts on this Peta blog in the past. As far as I’m aware there are farmers that do crutch their sheep mid season to help with flystrike. Those farmers that have thousands of sheep that do mules are the ones that are looking for the cheapeasy alternatives that don’t cut in to their profits too much. If mulesing was the only way to prevent flystrike not my opinion then there is still pain relief but that would also cut in to the profits hey!!!

  • rojo says:

    SB shearing sheep twice a year results in wool length that noone wants so yes it wouldn’t be so profitable. No doubt it is easier for you to watch all 5 sheep in a small block but you are comparing you abilities to those who have thousands of sheep spread over thousands of acres. from memory merino’s originated from spain not exactly the coolest of countries. At least you recognise flies are a problem.

  • SB says:

    Mick Flystrike can happen on various parts of a sheeps body so how does ripping the skin off their arses help that. There are alternatives noone is saying that a sheep should be allowed to just die from flystrike. When it comes down to it a farmer will have as much stock on his property so he can get as much profit from it. Farmers can’t possibly keep an eye out for every sheep on their own but won’t employ better management plans because it costs more money. Shearing a sheep twice a year instead of once can help with flystrike also but that also takes away profits. I have sheep myself rescued from neglectful farmers so am not ignorant to this issue and have seen flystrike but because I watch my sheep I have always caught it in time. You are the ignorant one if you think that mulesing is a good thing for these poor animals flystrike is not the only alternative if you don’t mules your sheep. Sheep should never have been brought to Australia it’s too hot and there are too many flies.

  • Laura says:

    Mick why would you say something like that? So hacking off sheep’s skin without anaesthetic is an absolute necessary is it? If the farmers really cared they would provide some sort of pain relief to the sheep first.It is all about money. Maybe you grew up thinking it was ok to treat animals like that but I am telling you right now. It’s not!! Next thing you will be saying it is perfectly alright the way sheep and cattle are treated in the Middle East before slaughter living in cramped disease ridden conditions starving and getting beaten regularly. If the farmers cared so much about the animal’s welfare they wouldn’t let their animals be shipped to the Middle East once they get too old to produce good enough wool. The reason they do it is so they won’t have one more problem to worry about anymore. It is the quick easy and cheapest option. A recipe for disaster. “Out of sight out of mind”. Don’t come onto this website calling us ignorant Mick take a look at yourself first.

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Mick That’s why you breed for smoothskinned sheep and so prevent flystrike in the first place. Did you not read any of the other posts here?

  • mick says:

    You poor poor ignorant fools. If only you knew what a sheep goes through as a result of not mulesing. Trust me I’ve grown up on a farm and slow death from blood poisoning is a much worse fate. Farmers are concerned for the welfare of their stock and their quality of life that is why mulesing is an absolute necessary evil. You just have no idea of what you’re talking about.

  • Ana says:

    Humane slaughter is an oxymoron.

  • Jack says:

    Hi Rojo Before I list some of the alternatives let’s talk about how we got here in the first place. How did it happen that merino sheep came to be so completely unsuited for the climate that they live in? As you know it happened because farmers selectively bred the sheep to have more and more folds in their skin and hence more wool and the consequences of this greed were that the sheep became more and more susceptible to flystrike. So if you bred ‘em wrong in the first place the obvious solution is to start breeding them right. Here’s how it needs to work. 1. Breed for barebreech or smoothskinned sheepsomething that should have been started decades ago. 2. In the meantime practice proper animal husbandry and use the following techniques instead of mulesing Reducing stock densities Timely crutching Careful diet control Chemical dipping Blowfly control For more detailed information about these alternatives and how they can be implemented check out httpsavethesheep.compdfWoolReport1204.pdf. In short mulesing is a lazy and cruel solution to a problem that was created by the sheep farmers in the first place. Farmers who continue to perform the mulesing mutilation do so because it is cheap and easy not because it is the only or the most effective way to prevent flystrike. The bottom line is that it is cruel and barbaric and it should never have been considered as an option in the first place. Jack

  • rojo says:

    It’s good to see someone with Mr. Pheonix’ standing recognising the humane slaughter standards in Australia especially the stunning procedure. It is a credit to the abattoir industry to be ranked below mulesing and live export in his eyes.

  • Niranjan says:

    PETA + Joaquin Pheonix Super Heros for Animals! My BIG hug to PETA!

  • AnimalLib says:

    Oh and I have read Reservation Road I’m sure he’ll be great as Ethan. Although if he and Jennifer Connelly had a baby I doubt very much it would look like Elle Fanning

  • AnimalLib says:

    I’m a big fan of Joaquin and his late brother. But wtf is with his signature?

  • Stasya Berber says:

    Dear Joaquin Pheonix. you stole my heart when you narrated Earthlings. now. im hopeless. love Me

  • Sonia says:

    It is great that these celebrities are standing up for the animals but unfortunately Peter McGauran listens to nobody but the people that are making money for the country. It is thought that anyone that wants better conditions for any animals that these people are just emotional idiots. This is the Australian way they kill thousands of birds because someone says they have pood on their car or dug holes in the golf course. Animals are just all pests over here unless they can make a profit for some greedy person.

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    An example of great courage conviction and compassion. Joaquin provides a sterling example for the rest of us to aspire to. Did you know he did his own singing in “Walk The Line”? What an amazing guy.

  • carolyn says:

    oh how i love joaquin A fine actor and a terrific advocate for the animals. he is not just another pretty face he is a warm intelligent caring human being. keep up the good wok joaquin

  • rojo says:

    Jack on another thread you were asked what humane alternatives exist and I was just wondering if you have an answer. Decades of breeding have resulted in a sought after wool product in Australia worth many times the wool from sheepmeat breeds in places like Britain. Bare breech breeding is happening now but simply changing breeds is not arealistic outcome.

  • kelly says:

    How many other celebrities have the courage and conviction to stand up for what is right? Not too many. Thank you Joaquin

  • Sacred Cause says:

    All my affection and blessings to Joaquin Phoenix! He is a heroic personality and honoring his wonderful unforgotten brother River Phoenix in continuing his Sacred Cause!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love him even more now!

  • Michele says:

    Joaquin Phoenix is one of the sexiest men alive because of everything he has done to help animals.

  • Jaclyn says:

    Ok I LOVE him. I LOVE him I LOVE him I LOVE him! He is such an awesome actor and obviously such an awesome person for taking a stand on this issue. Thanks Joaauin!!!!

  • Veronica Soto says:

    I applaud Joaquin Phoenix for such an eloquent and moving letter. What is done to these animals is an absolute travesty! Thanks to PETA for getting the word out! Thanks Joaquin!

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