Sheep & Pigs



Mulesing is the removal of wool-bearing skin from the back end of a sheep. Mulesing is considered routine practice and is performed to reduce the risk of flies and maggots causing irritation and infection in skin folds (fly-strike).  Mulesing is a painful procedure. It is promising that a growing number of producers including many in Western Australia are using pain-relief products on their sheep at mulesing but many sheep are still mulesed without pain relief. The Code of Practice for Sheep in Western Australia (2003), which is currently prescribed under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, is deficient in this respect as it does not even make mention of pain relief (as the main pain relief product used now was not registered until 2011). In contrast, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep (2016) recommend that mulesing should be accompanied by pain relief where practical and cost-effective methods are available and operators should seek advice on current pain minimisation strategies. The Standards stipulate that a person must not mules a sheep six to twelve months old without using appropriate pain relief. Unfortunately, at present, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines have not been incorporated in animal welfare regulations in Western Australia. If mulesing takes place, the RSPCA advocates for the use of pain relief but ultimately, we would like to see the wool industry phase out mulesing in favour of appropriate breeding of sheep with fewer skin folds at the back end to reduce the risk of flystrike.

For more information on mulesing visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.


The removal of wool from a sheep (shearing) is routine practice but can be a stressful time for sheep as it involves handling, restraint and potentially injury. Shearing should only be performed by trained operators following the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep and Code of Practice for Sheep in Western Australia. The RSPCA has also formulated recommendations to reduce stress in sheep during shearing.

For more information on shearing visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.

Lamb tail docking

Tail docking, amputation of the majority of the tail, is routinely performed on young lambs (before 3 months of age) to reduce the risk of flies and maggots causing irritation and infection to skin and tissues (fly-strike). A gas heated knife or rubber ring is used and the procedure is commonly performed without anaesthetic or pain-relief except in lambs older than six months where anaesthetic must be used. The RSPCA continues to call on industry to routinely use pain relief in lamb marking (tail docking, castration, tagging).

Animal Welfare Standards: Discussion Paper: Lamb tail docking.

RSPCA Knowledge Base: Why are painful procedures performed without anaesthetic?



There are several different housing systems for pigs including intensive indoor systems, outdoor bred, and free-range. Approximately 90% of pork consumed in Australia today is intensively raised in indoor systems. Traditionally, sows in intensive systems were confined in metal cages (2m x 60cm also known as sow stalls or gestation crates) for weeks to months after being mated or artificially inseminated. The Australian pig industry has voluntarily committed to phasing out sow stakks, and today, around 80% of pregnant sows are group housed. Legislation requires that pregnant sows are not confined to sow stalls for any longer than six weeks. When ready to give birth to her piglets and in an attempt to reduce the accidental crushing of piglets by the sow, the sow is confined to a farrowing (birthing) crate so narrow she cannot turn around. Many sows in intensive systems go for long periods deprived of bedding material or the opportunity to socialise normally with other pigs. The RSPCA supports the phase out of sow stalls and strongly advocates for the use of more animal welfare friendly farrowing systems.

For more information on pig farming visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

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