When you think of Australia, you may picture sunny beaches, clear seas, breathtaking mountainscapes, and adorable wildlife such as kangaroos and koalas. But Australia is also known around the world for its cruel treatment of sheep. Picture gentle, social lambs having huge chunks of skin and flesh cut from their backsides—or see Australia’s cruelty for yourself:
Australia provides much of the world’s merino wool. Merino sheep are bred to have excessively wrinkly skin, which traps moisture and attracts flies. Flies lay their eggs in the folds of the sheep’s skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the animals alive—a condition known as “flystrike.”
In a crude and cruel attempt to prevent flystrike, Australian farmers perform a barbaric procedure called “mulesing,” in which instruments resembling gardening shears are used to cut huge chunks of skin and flesh from lambs’ backsides. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won’t harbor fly eggs, yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal. The most effective way to prevent this maggot infestation is to breed sheep who have less wrinkly skin and less wool on their backsides so that they are less susceptible to flystrike. Experts estimate that, with an aggressive breeding program, farmers could transition their flocks to these flystrike-resistant sheep in about two years, and some farmers have already done so. Yet, the Australian wool industry largely refuses to make the switch, choosing instead to waste time and money on products from which industry leaders expect to make a profit. There is truly nothing like Australia’s cruelty.
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