Saving asses: Kenya now bans commercial slaughter of donkeys and shutdown all abattoirs after rise in smuggling of donkey skins to produce Chinese ejiao

  • Kenya has four licensed donkey abattoirs which slaughter around 1,000 donkeys daily, making the country, China’s key source market for donkey skins.
  • However, growing Chinese demand has led to a rise in black market with gangs hired by skin-smuggling networks to steal donkeys, inciting anger in communities. 
  • Donkey populations globally are under serious threat due to the demand for their hides, which are used to produce ejiao, a gelatin-based traditional drug.

The Kenyan government has banned all commercial slaughter of donkeys and ordered the shutdown of all donkey abattoirs in the country.

This follows rampant rustle theft of the animals by gangs seeking their skin for use in Chinese medicines, according to the country's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Cooperatives.

"The theft of donkeys has particularly disenfranchised farmers who use the donkeys to transport proceeds from farms or fetch water from considerably long distances," said Peter Munya, Cabinet secretary for the agriculture in a statement on Monday.

Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, which works closely with donkey owners and has been campaigning for a ban on the trade of donkey skin, welcomed the announcement. Brooke declared the situation a crisis in 2019, when research predicted donkeys in Kenya could be wiped out in just a few years if no action was taken.

Kenya has four licensed donkey abattoirs which slaughter around 1,000 donkeys daily, making the country, China’s key source market for donkey skins.

Licensing of donkey slaughterhouses, which exports donkey meat and skin, was seen as way for the Kenyan government to create job opportunities and increase the commercial value of donkeys, according to data from Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation and The Brooke East Africa, a donkey advocacy group.

However, growing Chinese demand has led to a rise in black market with gangs hired by skin-smuggling networks to steal donkeys, inciting anger in communities who depend on the animals for income, farming or transport.

Donkeys often are an essential lifeline for farmers who depend on them for transport, domestic work and milk.

All the four Kenyan abattoirs are now mandated to transform their donkey slaughterhouses within 60 days to handle cows, sheep and chickens, Munya said.

"Their licenses to slaughter donkeys are further revoked immediately," he said.

Donkey populations globally are under serious threat due to the demand for their hides, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, according to a 2019 report by The Donkey Sanctuary, a UK-based nonprofit.

Data from the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization shows more than 300,000 donkeys which is 15% of Kenya’s population have so far been slaughtered for skin and meat export in less than three years.

For instance, the skins of at least 3 million donkeys were sourced from outside China in 2016 to produce ejiao, a gelatin-based traditional drug, according to a report by The Donkey Sanctuary.

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