Concerns raised over mulesing definition

Livestock group head gives benefit of the doubt on mulesing definition

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DEFINITION CONCERNS: There's concern proposed regulations on mulesing, contained in draft Victorian animal welfare laws, don't match national standards.

DEFINITION CONCERNS: There's concern proposed regulations on mulesing, contained in draft Victorian animal welfare laws, don't match national standards.

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VFF livestock head says he's confident mulesing wording will be corrected.

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The head of the Victorian Farmers Federation livestock group says he's confident the definition of sheep mulesing, contained in proposed new animal welfare laws, will be changed to match national standards.

Victoria's proposed Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - Draft Regulations define mulesing as "removing skin from one or both of the breach and tail of a sheep."

That's raised concerns from WoolProducers Australia and prominent Ballarat ultrafine grower Sherrie Cordie.

They want to see Victoria adopt the definition contained in the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep.

That definition is "the removal of skin from the breech and/or tail of a sheep using mulesing shears".

Ms Cordie said she "nearly fainted" when she read the definition in the POCTA draft regulations.

"It was just a coincidence that I stumbled across it," Ms Cordie said.

"This is one of the biggest changes, if you will, for wool producers, and apparently it's being done with little, or no, consultation.

'No-one seems to know where its come from, or why, but it'll only cause grief for Victoria and other wool producers."

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She said a great deal of money and research had gone into alternatives to cutting the breach area of lambs, to prevent strike.

"They're all out there, and this will preclude all those uses."

Ms Cordie uses clips on her 4000 strong flock.

WPA chief executive Jo Hall said her group would be making a submission on the POCTA, strongly opposing any change to the mulesing definition.

The current definition was recognised under Animal Welfare Standards and the National Wool Declaration.

"WoolProducers feel very strongly that the Victorian government must not change the definition of mulesing, to which they agreed to during the development of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Sheep," Ms Hall said.

"National consistency in the definition is essential for industry QA systems, the NWD and trade."

But VFF Livestock Group president len Vallance said he would give Agriculture Victoria the benefit of the doubt when it came to the wording.

"I don't know whether it slipped under the radar, or it's a typo, or an oversight," Mr Vallance said.

"We're not sure whether it was a slip or an oversight, or people don't really understand the difference.

"We have had a word with Agriculture Victoria - there's one definition of mulesing, and that's the national definition."

He said the definition showed how imperative it was to read such legislation and engage in the consultation.

"It will come out the right way.

"The government has been down this animal welfare path with the puppy dogs."

"They tied themselves up in knots over that, and there's been a lot more direction to get it right, this time.

"I'll give the government the benefit of the doubt and say it was just a typo."

He agreed with WPA, and Ms Cordie, mulesing was the surgical removal of skin, from the breech of a sheep, with shears.

Having a different definition would risk research and development.

Ms Cordie said if the proposed definition was included in the legislation, it would end the use of clips and freeze branding.

"It would mean Victorian producers would be significantly disadvantaged," Ms Cordie said.

She accused Agriculture Victoria of "sneakily" trying to change the definition, without consulting farmers.

Ms Cordie said inconsistency between states would cause inadvertent non-compliance, wool declaration anomalies and errors and confusion on mulesed, and non-mulesed, wool.

"How will international buyers know what they are buying?

Victorian growers would be financially disadvantaged when selling non-surgically mulesed wool.

The state's international reputation could also be tarnished through the perception that Victoria had the highest proportion of mulesed sheep.

For Victorian producers, there were welfare implications and increased costs during crutching.

If the definition was included, it would also stifle investment in the development of more humane ways of breech modification.

Ms Cordie said farmer representative groups were not notified.

"The Engage Victoria site, for providing feedback about the draft, didn't ask any questions about the mulesing definition change," she said.

A government spokesman said no decision had been made.

"The definition of mulesing has not changed since Animal Welfare Victoria consulted with the Victorian Farmers Federation," the spokesman said.

"Animal Welfare Victoria will continue to consult with the Victorian Farmers Federation, and other stakeholders, on the proposed regulations to mandate the use of pain relief for mulesing in Victoria.

"All feedback on the proposed regulations will be considered and amendments made where appropriate."

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