UK trade deal with Australia 'must not legitimise animal mutilation'

  • Warning that Australian farming rules permit brutal techniques that are illegal in UK
  • Practices such as 'mulesing' and 'full-tail docking' are carried out without anaesthetic, and traumatise animals
  • British farmers could lose out if they are held to higher welfare standards than Australian counterparts, warn campaigners

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott has been accused of ‘ignoring animal mutilation’ following comments he made about a UK-Australia trade deal.

Speaking at a Policy Exchange event today [Tues Sept 1], Abbott said the UK and Australia have ‘similar standards’.

But he failed to mention key areas where standards diverge, including the controversial technique of ‘mulesing’, the deliberate slashing of lambs by farmers.

Best for Britain Chief Executive Naomi Smith said:

‘The practice of mulesing on Australian sheep farms involves slashing open, without anaesthetic, a lamb’s hind quarters, to create crescent-shaped bands of scar tissue which reduce the risk of fly strike.

‘It’s illegal in Europe – and also in New Zealand – and it affects many millions of animals every year in Australia. The process is extremely traumatic for the lambs, and particularly shocking to anyone who cares about animal welfare.

‘Mulesing is but one example of how our trading partners operate different standards of welfare – another is full-tail docking of lambs. Again, that is illegal in Britain, as it can lead to serious health issues and even cancers in sheep, but is common in Australia.’

Smith said cutting animal welfare standards was an unacceptable step that could put British farmers at a disadvantage as well as legitimising the suffering of livestock.

She added:

‘Our Government must never do deals with other countries that risk the standards that the UK and EU currently employ.’

Find out more

A blog post from Best for Britain's Director of Communications, Kenny Campbell, looks at some of the issues surrounding agreeing a trade deal with Australia. He had this to say on the practice of 'mulesing':

'Australia still permits a process known as ‘mulesing’ in which crescent-shaped flaps of skin are cut from a lamb’s rear end – without anaesthesia – to create taught, smooth scar tissue that is less likely to attract blowfly infections, which can be fatal.

'According to RSPCA Australia, up to 13.5million Merino lambs are mulesed annually, suffering great pain and distress in the process. In addition, short tail docking removes most of the tail, another process banned in the UK.'

Read the blog in full here.