Farm Animal Rescue sanctuary sheep have been rescued from the lamb meat and wool industries. Due to demand for wool, Merino sheep have been genetically bred to grow as much fleece as possible, and designed to have wrinkled skin so as there is more surface area for the wool to grow. And whilst sheep used to naturally shed their winter coat, sheep genetically bred by the wool industry retain their wool. As such they are no longer able to live without being shorn, and if their coat is left too long it becomes dirty and full of bacteria.
In Australia, flies are attracted to the wrinkled skin and may lay eggs there, which can lead to a painful and possibly fatal condition called flystrike.
We rescue these gentle animals as we know that sheep have the capacity to suffer as much as our own cats and dogs, and that right now in these industries, their interests come second to profits. In addition, laws that protect our very own companion animals do not apply to them and they routinely have parts of their body cut off without pain relief. Here are some practices common in the industry which we are working to eliminate so that the world is a better place for sheep and lambs.
Lambs are born with a long tail, but many bred into animal agriculture have their tail cut off with a blade or sharp knife whilst being restrained in a device. This is thought to reduce the risk of flystrike. Cutting off an animals' tail is major surgery, as it requires cutting through bone and muscle at the base of the tail. Such surgery causes much pain. Currently, however, there is no mandatory requirement for pain relief in Australia if the lamb is under six months old, and so this is an excruciating procedure for millions of lambs each year.
Mulesing is a process where young lambs have the skin around their rump and tail cut off with a pair of shears in order to leave a smooth scar that will not attract the flies. Mulesing is performed to minimise flystrike but leaves the lamb with a large bleeding and painful wound which can take weeks to heal. And although mulesing has been banned in New Zealand, and animal advocates in Victoria spoke out to secure pain relief for the sheep during the process, it is still commonplace in other states for of Australia without pain relief.
Male lambs also have to endure surgical castration where the bottom of his scrotum is cut out without pain relief.
Shearing causes stress for sheep who are naturally fearful of human handling. In addition, it is not uncommon for sheep to get injured whilst being sheared, and common industry practice to stitch up wounds without pain relief.
In winter 2018 FAR Investigations team went to Victoria and discovered first hand the death toll caused by lambing in winter. The industry suggests that up to 15 millions lambs could die each year.
A FAR Investigation - Winter Lambing in Australia - warning, footage contains images of lambs that have died in their paddock that may be distressing to some viewers.