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Listen Up: Changes to EU Lamb Welfare Regulations are Coming

More change is in the air for Australian lamb marking practices

In recent years, the Australian lamb industry has come under the international spotlight over the welfare impact of mulesing. It’s tempting to think that with current regulations in place, the welfare issue around lamb marking is done and dusted. The news is that this isn’t the case. Let us tell you what’s happening in Australia as well as the European Union (EU).

New Developments in Australia

In December, three leading animal welfare organisations – FOUR PAWS, Humane Society International (HSI) Australia and RSPCA Australia – announced a partnership to work towards an end to mulesing across Australia. This will involve regular contact with major international brands as well as Australian wool growers – read more here.

New Developments in the EU

Meanwhile, at the receiving end of the supply chain, further changes are afoot. A recent report by Terry Sim, editor at Sheep Central, highlighted current EU plans to introduce animal welfare laws that may well lead to a ban on tail docking and castration, and the introduction of mandatory pain relief across member states.

However, it will also affect imports from non-EU countries, so that countries not applying similar welfare standards to not have a competitive advantage. Such products would need to be labelled as being non-compliant. This would enable EU consumers to make informed ethical purchasing decisions relating to process and production methods.

As you know, laws further along the supply chain will come back to bite producers in the seat of the pants, so let’s take a closer look at these new laws. 

WoolProducers Australia's Response

This is already prompting WoolProducers Australia (WPA) to introduce new policy that goes further than supporting mandatory pain relief for surgical mulesing. WPA general manager Adam Dawes pointed out that regulation is unlikely to stop at castration and tail docking. While not agreeing with the scope of the proposed measures, he said that some movement on welfare at home is needed.

“We do really need to look at what is best practice, we’ve got effective pain relief products, they do come at an additional cost, but they’re not super expensive, given they are administered only once in the animal’s lifetime.”

He also said that WPA would make a submission to the EU process focused on lifetime animal welfare outcomes.

“What applies in Europe won’t be practical or best practice here – in some circumstances it might be, but not in all circumstances. At the moment, our policy only mentions pain relief for mulesing and supports the sheep welfare standards and guidelines. Given the increasing importance of the issue, we need to broaden our policy in some way.”

Read the full report on Sheep Central here.

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