I 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.