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Editors Note: The wool and the sheep flesh industries are so intertwined it is difficult to write about them separately. For this reason, we have incorporated these pages together. It is common for people to think wool is not cruel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The wool industry, like the meat industry, is one of immense suffering for the sheep involved. VR.

Sheep are used for their flesh and their wool throughout Australia. Sheep who are specifically bred for their flesh will be killed as babies of only 6-8 months old. Sheep used for their wool will also eventually be killed for their flesh once their wool growth slows, sold as cheap flesh for human consumption or dog food. The following information is standard practice across all sheep farms in Australia.


 In Australia, lambing is usually timed to occur in mid-winter so that once the lambs are weaned the spring grass will be growing and the expense incurred by the farmers for feed will be reduced. The industry-driven demand for “Spring Lamb” is also to benefit from this artificial timing. Lambs are born into freezing conditions, often at night, resulting in the death of many. Sheep are selectively bred to have a greater number of lambs. When a sheep has 3 lambs the 3rd can be rejected by the mother who is sometimes unable to care for 3. 

There is very often no shelter for the newborn lambs even in the middle of winter. One of the reasons given for winter shearing is to encourage the ewes to seek shelter for their lambs even if there is none. Lambs are often born during the night so on many occasions, the lambs who are sick or abandoned are not discovered until early morning after they have died or when it is too late to save them. If orphaned or sick lambs are discovered alive, the majority of farmers are unwilling to spend the time or money on vet visits and hand raising them. They are killed, often with a blow to the head with a blunt object. This is perfectly legal with the method being recommended by Agriculture Victoria in their guidelines on sheep welfare.

In the first 48 hours of life 10 to 15 million lambs will lose their lives due to malnutrition and/or hypothermia. Approximately 22 million lambs were sent to slaughter in 2017. This total of 37 million lives per annum does not account for any of those lost between the first 48 hours and slaughter age (approximately 6-8 months of age).

It is not only the lambs who suffer and die but also the ewes. Ewes who have birthing difficulties are usually not monitored or given vet treatment. Many die without anyone being aware that they are in trouble. 

Ewe with a painful prolapse at a luxury holiday rental property in Daylesford, Victoria. After a call
the farmer came and shoved the prolapse back inside her. She appeared to go in to shock.
Credit: Vegan Rising

Rescued hypothermic lamb forced into the world in the freeze of winter to increase farmer profits
Credit: Lamb Care A

Male lambs, unless marked for slaughter prior to puberty, will usually be castrated. Acceptable methods of castrating male lambs without anaesthesia are by cutting with a knife or having rubber rings applied.


According to the Code of Accepted Farming Practice for the Welfare of Sheep (Agriculture Victoria) tail docking should be performed on lambs as early as management practices will allow, preferably between 2 and 12 weeks. Disregarding any pain they may feel, the acceptable methods of tail docking, without anaesthesia, are: cutting with a sharp knife, applying rubber rings or using a gas flame heated scarring iron.

Tail docking is a standard practice on farms. The reason given for this is to help reduce the incidence of fly strike (as described in Mulesing). As in the case of Museling, this is an unnecessary mutilation of the lambs with sheep being able to live a perfectly healthy life with their tails intact.

Credit: Melbourne Sheep Save


Although mulesing is less commonly practised than it once was it is still a practice that occurs in Australia. Mulesing involves cutting a crescent-shaped slice of skin from each side of the buttock area; the usual cut on each side is 5 – 7cm in width and extends slightly less than halfway from the anus to the hock of the back leg in length. Skin is also stripped from the sides and the end of the tail stump. This surgical procedure is usually done without any anaesthetic. The large scars left after mulesing take several weeks to heal and are susceptible to infection and flystrike.

The idea behind mulesing is to reduce flystrike which is when blowfly eggs laid on the skin of the sheep hatch into larvae which then feed on the sheep’s tissue. Sheep are now bred to have more wrinkly skin to increase the amount of wool which creates a much higher chance of flystrike. Whilst flystrike can be a risk to sheep it is a treatable condition. In flocks of hundreds of sheep, however, flystrike can be harder to detect and farmers are reluctant to spend the huge amount of time required monitoring the occurrence or treating any cases. If sheep were not bred in such large numbers as they are for the animal flesh and wool industry flystrike could be easily monitored and treated if it did occur.

Credit: Unknown
Ballarat Sale Yard
Sheep deemed unfit for sale are shot on site in front of their friends and dumped in a truck like trash. These are every day occurances.
Credit: Vegan Rising


Sheep were originally self-shedding so kept enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. Due to breeding and genetic manipulation, however, sheep raised by the wool industry produce excessive amounts of wool so now have to be shorn. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. This often results in horrendous injuries to the sheep with open wounds being sewn up without anaesthetic. Sheep are known to be beaten into submission should they not stay still and drug use has been proven to be prevalent in the shearing industry. Despite the fact that shearing causes sheep a high degree of stress, they are usually shorn twice a year with one of those times being late autumn – a time when they are leading into when they are most in need of their fleece to protect them from the cold. This is to enable farmers to make a greater amount of profit from their wool.

Undercover footage of Australian shearing
Credit: PETA


There is no legal requirement to provide any form of shelter at farms, saleyards, feedlots or slaughterhouses, even from severe weather extremes. This includes the most basic form of shade. Sheep can be seen on days in the high 30s or even low 40s huddled together under one tree or with no choice but to be out in full sun for the whole day. Australia’s weather extremes are brutal and millions of sheep and newborn lambs are at its mercy with no regard shown by those who profit from their lives and deaths.


Thousands of sheep pass through Australian saleyards every week. Most are waiting to be purchased for slaughter. Pens are crammed full of sheep who are commonly injured or sick. It is illegal to transport pregnant ewes yet it is not uncommon for lambs to be born at saleyards. There is no legal requirement for any sort of shelter at saleyards so sheep are often exposed to the extremes of weather conditions experienced in Australia.

Ballarat Sale Yard
Credit: Vegan Rising


When sheep are transported in trucks they are crammed in to stop them from falling over. Although this does help to stabilize them it is common for trucks to contain downed sheep who are unable to get up and who are being trampled by others. It is illegal to transport pregnant ewes but it is not uncommon for lambs to be born on trucks. A common sight on busy freeways is for a transport truck to be seen with the head or limbs of sheep protruding from the side of the truck. It is illegal to drive with any part of a sheep protruding from a truck. It is very difficult, however, for a driver to stop and rectify the situation during the journey without unloading all the sheep. This law is in place more for appearance than for practicality. Accidents involving sheep on trucks are becoming increasingly common resulting in horrific injuries and deaths of these animals.

Credit: Melbourne Sheep Save


Meat and Livestock Australia estimated that 22 million lambs would be sent to slaughter in Australia in 2017. Despite the industry wanting us to believe in a “humane” slaughter method this is far from the truth. The animals suffer and die a terrible death. Although stunning is a requirement for lambs and sheep slaughtered in Australian slaughterhouses (with the exception of Kosher killing) the stunning process is often not effective and the animals have their throats slit and are left hanging upside down to bleed out while close to or fully conscious. Recent footage captured and leaked from CCTV cameras shows the reality of what takes place for sheep behind the walls of the slaughterhouse.

An Australian slaughterhouse who supplies dead lambs to local butchers and major supermarkets. No action was taken against the slaughterhouse in response to this footage.

Sheep and lambs are no different to the domestic cat and dog in that they each have their individual personalities. They are affectionate and loving, just like most domestic cats and dogs and also feel fear, joy, and pain just like any other living being. Yet so many people deem it acceptable to treat them in a way the majority of us would never dream of treating our animal friends. People need to realize just how individual and sensitive these animals are and that they no sooner want live the life of abuse, loss and slaughter than any other living being wishes to live. If people could allow themselves to see the truth about these animals they would no longer be able to contribute to their suffering and death.

Casper and Darcy, rescued and loved.

Author : Robyn Payne
Occupation: Musician
Secretary & Critical Care Person at Lamb Care Australia
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