Wool sheep welfare is at the heart of the global wool industry and every wool grower’s farm. Ensuring positive animal health outcomes is paramount, ethically as well as economically. The industry recognises the importance of this issue to consumers, brands and retailers, and is committed to transparency in all stages of the wool pipeline.


At the request of IWTO’s membership, in 2013 the main wool growing countries developed the IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare, which have since evolved to the recently released IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare.

Based on the universally recognised Five Freedoms of animal welfare embodied in the OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the IWTO Specifications provide a concise guide to best practice principles for wool sheep production around the world.

The Specifications respect the vast diversity of sheep production environments – which vary from extensive rangelands to intensively housed systems; additionally, the document describes the legislative frameworks that protect animal welfare in each wool producing country.

Each wool producing country – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay – has a set of animal welfare laws which wool growers are bound to uphold, and a corresponding set of best practice regulations to guide animal husbandry practices. These animal husbandry management tools are highly specific to production system, environment, and sheep breed.

There are five husbandry principles that meet the physiological and behavioural need of sheep:

  • Environment

  • Nutrition

  • Health

  • Behaviour

  • Handling

Read more about each principle and how it applies in practice in wool production: view or downloading the IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare.


The IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare are also a cornerstone of the Dumfries Wool Declaration, the industry’s 10-point declaration of intent to support an environmentally responsible, sustainable and commercially viable wool industry.

The full text of the Dumfries Wool Declaration is available here. Pledge your support for the wool industry by committing your company to these 10 Principles, and sign the Dumfries Wool Declaration on the Campaign for Wool website.


The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) is recognised by the World Trade Organistion as the reference organisation for international animal health standards.

The IWTO and OIE  maintain a Memorandum of Understanding with the following commitments:

  • 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 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 keep each 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 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.