Below is information regarding a common practice to merino sheep. Merino wool is obviously produced by a living, breathing animal. This idea is often forgotten by those purchasing merino products as it is not quite as obvious as buying a fur coat, or leather products that are more in your face. Whenever a live animal is involved, you can bet that there are organizations out there who look down on the industry. One such group is PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who several years ago began exposing possible inhuman treatment of sheep within the wool industry, focusing efforts specifically on the Australian wool industry which is one of the largest producers of merino wool in the world. The practice that was honed in on was Mulesing.
Mulesing is common practice in Australia as a way to reduce the incidence of flystrike on Merino sheep in regions where flystrike (or Myiasis) is common. Without getting bogged down in too many details, flystrike is basically a maggot infestation around the nether regions of sheep where loose stool collects on the fur. It is a disgusting disease and can cause death if not properly treated. It is estimated that up to 3 million sheep could die a year if nothing was done to prevent flystrike. This is where mulesing comes into play. Mulesing is a skilled surgical task that involves the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep to prevent flystrike (myiasis) in regions where it is common.
Mulesing is a controversial practice and is still highly debated among industry insiders and animal rights organizations. In fact, there has been a number of alternative practices that have been developed from chemical removal of hair to better management of insects. To learn more about the practice check out the following websites or do some searches for mulesing and you will come up with an abundant amount of information on both sides of the fence. Educate yourself on the matter and make your own informed decision.
General Mulesing Info