Legsislation which would have outlawed mulesing in NSW by 2020 has stalled in the state's Legislative Council.
The coalition government and Labor opposition torpedoed amendments to the state's animal cruelty prevention laws, arguing growers had no chance of preparing for life after mulesing in just two years.
The bill was introduced into the Upper House by the NSW Animal Justice Party's Mark Pearson last year.
While the NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, and Labor's Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Mick Veitch, both acknowledged during the debate that some growers had used genetics to breed blowfly-resistant sheep, the process was slow and couldn't be achieved across the Merino flock in two years.
An amendment moved by Mr Veitch to send Mr Pearson's legislation to a committee for further review and discussion produced a tied 17-all vote and the Acting President, Trevor Khan, ended the deadlock by casting his vote against the referral which effectively put the bill in limbo.
During the debate Mr Veitch, who was born in Gundagai, said flystrike was horrible for both sheep and the people who had to try to save them.
He said breeding sheep that didn't need mulesing would take at least eight and up to 15 years.
"I just do not think two years is practical for a lot of those graziers who have not started to move down the genetic process of moving away from the need to mules," he said.
"My real concern is that if we bring in a two-year or 2022 date that it may have a perverse outcome for a whole range of sheep in NSW because the farmers will no longer be allowed to mules, so therefore the sheep will be fly-struck and therefore we will expose a lot of sheep to a very painful death," Mr Veitch said.
Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, who comes from Gunnedah,said while mulesing was still an essential management tool, the industry's reliance on the practice was declining as more breeders selected for sheep with natural resistance to flystrike.
However, breeding a fly-resistant national flock was a long-term process and flystrike was still costing the industry more than $200 million a year in lost production, she said.
"Change is also being driven at an industry level with NSW Farmers members voting to support mandating the use of pain relief during mulesing."
(The Victorian Government legislated last December to make the use of pain relief compulsory for mulesing.)
"In addition, market forces are contributing to a reduction in mulesing with non-mulesed wool now attracting a premium price," Ms Mitchell said.
"Wool sold from non-mulesed sheep has increased from 5.5 per cent in 2010 to 13pc in 2018, and wool sold from sheep given pain relief during the mules procedure increased from 8pc in 2010 to 35.6pc in 2018.
"Industry understands the need to transition away from mulesing and the need for pain relief when mulesing is necessary.
"The industry-led mandatory pain relief audit process achieves improvements in animal welfare without the need for additional government regulation."
She said the NSW Government supported national consistency when it came to animal welfare regulations.
"A national approach is the only way to ensure nationally consistent welfare outcomes for livestock industries and that the interstate trade of animal products is set to the same standard.
"Introducing animal welfare requirements on top of these standards and guidelines would place NSW farmers at a competitive disadvantage."
Emma Hurst from the NSW Animal Justice Party said Merino sheep weren't suited to the Australian climate.
Abigail Boyd fromThe Greens said there were no permanent alternatives to mulesing that weren't painful.
"The only permanent and humane solution is breeding programs that reduce flystrike susceptibility," she said.
"While we have concerns that an implementation period of less than two years before mulesing becomes a criminal offence will make it difficult for industry to conduct the breeding programs necessary to eliminate flystrike, on balance we do not view it as impossible."
The story Bid to outlaw mulesing in NSW by 2022 is torpedoed first appeared on Farm Online.