International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems


Nancy Heneson


The practice of mulesing sheep to prevent blowfly strike has recently come under fire from the Animal Liberation movement in Australia. Although it is only one of the many issues which Animal Lib has raised in its campaign to reform various sectors of the livestock industry, it is particularly illustrative of the kinds of conflicts in world view which arise when animal rights activists turn the spotlight on the farming establishment. Spokesmen for the livestock industries are quick to stress the emotional and sometimes sensational portrayal by Animal Libbers of time-honored animal management practices, as well as the sinister role of the urban press. Animal Libbers, on the other hand, profess a desire to reach a reasonable compromise with the farming community while at the same time proposing legislation which could have serious economic repercussions for the farmer and the consumer. Both sides offer valid arguments, but the debate is often frustrated by a mutual lack of sensitivity and an incomplete understanding of the context in which the other group is operating. Issues which combine economics, social attitudes, ethics and politics are seldom, if ever, clear-cut. Sheep mulesing as it is presently practiced constitutes an animal welfare problem, but it is a problem which is tightly interwoven with the sturdy threads of rural tradition and economic benefit.