Mulesing could be banned in NSW if sheep producers don't have their say on legislative amendments prohibiting the practice by January 1, 2023.
An Upper House committee will conduct an inquiry into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Restrictions on Stock Animals Procedures) Bill 2019 put forward by Animal Justice Party MLC, Mark Pearson.
Producers have until July 31 to respond to the Bill through online submissions with the inquiry committee set to report by September 24.
In the survey, participants have a choice of three options:
- To support banning the practice and make pain relief mandatory for all other surgical procedures
- Remain neutral or undecided
- Or oppose the Bill.
Participants can only submit their response if they explain their position regarding the Bill, in 500 words or less.
Mr Pearson has recently used graphic images of mulsed lambs on social media sites such as Twitter to push for the practice to be banned.
The posts carry the headline, "Act now - 6 million lambs mutilated without pain relief in NSW each year."
Mr Pearson said the sheep industry has been 'on notice' for over 35 years and claimed it was let down by Australia's peak wool body.
He warned if the wool industry, and parliament, don't deal with the matter properly they could be looking at another boycott from PETA.
"The first federal standing committee of animal welfare recommended mulesing had to be phased out, but Australian Wool Innovation decided not to spend the amount of money that was required to find an alternative, or to work out how the industry could get out of the mess it was in," Mr Pearson said.
"It has almost brought down the wool industry. PETA launched a boycott and they are watching very closely how this Bill progresses through the house.
"If it doesn't get the right attention it deserves, and unless the parliament and wool industry grapples with this, we might be facing another boycott of Australian wool."
He said he pitched the Bill in order to create certainty for woolgrowers and cause a sense of urgency.
"It is in the best interest of woolgrowers to do something and tell the world," Mr Pearson said.
"It is not as if my Bill has come out of the left field, it has been on the radar years. It is not going away, we need to grab this issue by the horns and seriously deal with it."
Mr Pearson said he put a two-year timeline on the proposal as he was advised by woolgrowers, when he was on the AWI animal welfare panel, that they could assertively breed out wrinkles, but maintain the micron level in that time frame.
"They (the woolgrowers) believed in 18 months to two years they could render the animal as resistant to fly strike as if they had been mulesed," Mr Pearson said.
"I know other wool growers still have sheep that have a lot of wrinkles, but I think when we have a deadline, it's time to put our heads down and find out the answer."
NSW Stud Merino Breeders Association vice president Hamish McLaren, Woolbrook, said the association had plenty of growers that don't mules and are receiving large premiums for their wool.
"It should be our choice, as sheep and wool producers. Our animals are our priority and we do the best we can for them, plenty of our members believe mulesing is still, at this stage, the best welfare outcome for the lifetime our animals," Mr McLaren said.
"In our policy we encourage our members to use anaestheticand analgesic for their surgical procedures."
Mr McLaren doesn't want to see the industry mandate pain relief because the knock-on effect would be enormous.
"It could mean getting a vet to put a stitch in a sheep at shearing time or when we ear mark a calf. Is this going down the same road as the European system?
"Their governments heavily subsidise all forms of surgical procedures and more for agriculture.
"I have no idea where Mr Pearson got his figures of six million lambs being mutilated from.
"Over 80 per cent of lambs born in NSW would have had some form of anaestheticor analgesic used on them according to product manufacturers."
Merino producer Geoff Peters of Hillston, believes his industry has suffered from a lack of direction from the onset of the mulesing debate, but said said it wasn't realistic to ban the practise.
He said sheep genetics had progressed a long way but he doesn't believe it is possible to stop mulesing just yet.
"We don't know what a flyblown sheep looks like now, because many of us practice six-month shearing, and of course prevention methods are a whole lot better," Mr Peters said.
"Practically I think it is impossible at this point in time, not to have some form of mulesing."
Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor from The University of Sydney said the industry was faced with a real problem if mulesing was banned.
"There is still enough wrinkle phenotype to be concerned about. People need to be aware that it is not as simple as just banning mulesing," Prof Windsor said.
He said the better welfare outcome would be to use pain relief until the industry got the wrinkle phenotype down to a much lower level.
"But it is a slow process, I don't understand how a time line can even be offered on a subject like this," Prof Windsor said.
"We have to accept currently, the best outcome for sheep with wrinkle is more likely to be mulesed with pain relief rather than a twice annual crutching where skin is probably going to be removed."
The hearing is set for two weeks time and a report will be prepared to present to the House and then the government will consider the report.
Mr Pearson said there will be enormous pressure to not indicate a date that mulesing will be banned, but believes it is better coming from within the industry than being imposed on the industry from retailers and the external market.
Information about the inquiry, including the terms of reference, can be found on the committee's website.
NSW Farmers was contacted for comment but did not respond.