Wool Sheep Welfare

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The wool industry is committed to the highest standards of sheep care and well-being and supports scientific research in this area. Wool farmers are dedicated to the job of looking after their animals and keeping them healthy, to ensure the wool maintains the right qualities for the textile industry. Farmers are always looking towards the best available animal husbandry practices to ensure good economic management of their business and optimum results in their produce.  This proactive approach provides uncompromising welfare standards for sheep across the world.

Animal welfare and caring for the environment are also increasingly important to consumers and to brands and retailers. IWTO is committed to transparency in all stages of the wool pipeline, and animal welfare is very much a part of this commitment.

Wool, Animal Welfare & the Environment

As requested and agreed by IWTO members, ensuring positive animal health outcomes is of paramount concern for the global wool industry, including and ensuring freedom from animal diseases, such as Foot-and-Mouth disease (FMD) or any other animal health issue that could become a wool trade barrier.

As noted in the IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare, page 13:

“Diseases and parasites should be prevented and controlled as much as possible through good management practices.”

“Where painful procedures cannot be avoided, the resulting pain should be managed to the extent that available methods allow.” (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, Article 7.1.4(7 and 8)

“Surgical procedures should be avoided wherever possible and should only be performed where there is a positive health or welfare benefit for the animal. Where surgical procedures cannot be avoided, the resulting pain should be minimised by a selection of the most appropriate method for the age of the animal and the use of anesthesia and analgesia, were practical. Genetic, technological and management interventions should be sought and applied to remove the need for surgical procedures.”

The IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare, as approved by members in 2013, are based on Chapter 7 of the Recommendations for Animal Welfare, published by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

IWTO remains committed to all the above and will regularly update and review any issues pertaining to Wool Trade Biosecurity and the Guidelines on Wool Sheep Welfare, as these directly impact the consumer’s perception of wool, the buying patterns of retailers and the import and export of all greasy and processed wool.

IWTO’s Sustainable Practices Working Group will soon be reviewing the updated version of the Guidelines on Wool Sheep Welfare and its recommendations will be shared with all members and documented at the IWTO Biella Wool Round Table in November 2016.

IWTO & the OIE

The IWTO and OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) maintain a memorandum of understanding and IWTO is currently updated with the status of the ISO Specifications on Animal Welfare. The OIE remains committed to include IWTO in any future work on specifications which might impact on the welfare of wool sheep.

Through their memorandum of understanding, IWTO and OIE commit to:

  • The IWTO monitors national and international welfare regulations set by Government or Intergovernmental Organisations in order to determine the appropriate actions to promote the wool industry in relation to sustainability issues
  • The IWTO was established in 1930, when the Statutes of the Organisation were approved and according to these Statutes, the IWTO is an Association of Organisations interested in the production, commerce and industry of wool and its finished products
  • The OIE is recognised as the reference organisation by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for international animal health standards
  • The OIE works on safeguarding world trade by publishing health sanitary standards for international trade in animals and animal products for Member Countries to protect themselves from the introduction of disease and pathogens and avoid their spread worldwide
  • The OIE and IWTO will keep the other informed of activities that may be of mutual interest and invite the other to participate as an observer in meetings where matters of mutual interest might arise and make reports of these meetings available. Both organisations will endeavor to cooperate further through both formal and informal consultations on issues of common interest, in particular the exchange of views and participation at meetings on relevant aspects of animal welfare and biosecurity, which could impact the wool industry

IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare

On 13 June 2013, at the IWTO Congress held in Biella, Italy, the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) published its Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare. The international guidelines reflect good practice principles for ethical wool sheep production. 

The IWTO Guidelines to Wool Sheep Welfare are based on the universally recognised five freedoms. While specifically relevant to the global wool sheep production industry, these good welfare practices are closely aligned with the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

The objective of these guidelines is to clearly define and widely promote animal welfare practices in wool production, relevant to the wide diversity of production environments around the globe. 

The document has been developed through a consultative process involving representatives of individual grower countries and technical internal and external experts in the fields of animal welfare and veterinary science, through the IWTO Sustainable Practices Working Group. The guidelines will be of significant assistance to spinners and weavers working closely with downstream manufacturers in the global market.

IWTO’s intent is that these guidelines provide a ready resource for anyone interested in the applicable standards for wool sheep production globally, and for those interested in development or refinement of individual country codes. 

Please click here to download the IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare Guidelines.

To request a high resolution version (required for professional printing) please mail us at info@iwto.org.

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