The Donkey Skin Trade

Will you stand against the slaughter of working donkeys?

Hundreds of thousands of donkeys are slaughtered for their skins and exported annually, causing donkey numbers across the world to decimate. It is driven by demand from China, as skins are boiled to produce ‘ejiao’, a gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Donkeys are often stolen from families who depend on them for their livelihoods – families often already struggling and living below the poverty line.

Brooke is calling for a global ban on the trade of donkey skins and a crackdown on cross-border smuggling of donkeys for their skins.

Latest News

African Union bans donkey skin trade

African leaders have officially opted to ban the donkey skin trade. Brooke has played a vital role in pushing for this ban, thanks to tireless lobbying of government ministers and strong work in mobilising equine owning communities.

Read more here.

7 facts about donkey skin trade

What you need to know about the trade

What is Brooke doing to help?

Brooke has been working tirelessly to eradicate the skin trade and protect donkeys for many years. On the frontline, we fund projects and work with other organisations to keep donkeys safe. At local and international level, we lobby policymakers to bring in laws that protect donkeys and owners.

We have produced a policy brief with recommendations for policymakers NGOs and researchers, and a research report that outlines the effects of the trade on people's livelihoods in Kenya. You can download both at the bottom of this page.

Success stories

Ivory Coast bans the donkey skin trade

After early action from Brooke West Africa led to a prompt ban on the donkey skin trade in Senegal, they turned their attention to other hot spots in the region that have become corridors for the trade, with skins being taken accross borders. Ivory Coast, which has a large port, was one of these countries, and on 13 July they announced a ban on both slaughter and export of donkey skins. Whilst official statistics on Ivory Coast’s equid population are unknown, the authorities have been aware of the issue, and in 2019 closed a clandestine donkey slaughterhouse in the northern town of Ouangolodougou. 

Read the full story here.

Donkey Skin Trade banned in Tanzania

In January 2022 Tanzania announced to the national media that they are banning the donkey skin trade for at least 10 years. This came following concerns of rapidly falling donkey population numbers. Read the full story here.  

Both of Tanzania's donkey slaughterhouses were closed indefinitely in 2021 after a government investigation found that the one in Shinyanga region had been "going against animal welfare, humane slaughter and abattoir hygiene" according to The East African. The other slaughterhouse, in Dodoma, has been non-operational for some time.

Brooke East Africa have been working closely with authorities in Tanzania to ban the slaughter of donkeys, and hope the ban will have a significant reduction in the number of donkeys being smuggled across borders in cramped and inhumane conditions - almost all donkeys caught being smuggled across borders in the past have been on their way to the Shinyanga slaughterhouse.

Bringing countries together

in June 2021, Brooke West Africa organised the ‘Sub-Regional Conference on the Preservation of the Donkey Species in West Africa’ bringing together representatives from multiple countries to agree ways to tackle the trade. Attendees travelled from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, and many more tuned in virtually though the accompanying webinar. In West Africa, there is a slaughterhouse in Ghana, which is prompting smuggling from surrounding countries, and Nigeria is thought to be a hub for skins being exported. In Burkina Faso the trade is banned, but in April 2021 over 1,500 donkeys were seized by authorities in a market, thought to be destined for slaughter for their skins. Read the write up of the conference here.

Tackling misinformation in Kenya

One of the main reasons Kenya originallly banned the donkey skin trade was because the government recognised the damage it was doing to the livelihoods of Kenyan people. With donkeys being stolen, a pressure being put on their owners to sell, and the rising cost of donkeys all mean that people are losing the donkeys they need, and aren't able to replace them. 

Whilst fighting against the ban in court, one of the slaughterhouses, Goldox, thought they could solve that problem by simply making more donkeys. They had set up their own farm, and started promoting it as the quick fix solution, in a desperate plea to be allowed to operate. Brooke East Africa and its partner organisations KENDAT, Send A Cow and CARITAS swung into action to do their own media outreach, to explain why farming and breeding is not the answer. The main reasons are:

  • It would be bad for donkey welfare
  • Breeding to meet demand is not practical, feasible or economically viable.
  • Live transportation and intensive donkey farms pose high disease risks.
  • There's no evidence that the product made from donkey skins, ejiao, has any medical benefits.

Watch the video below to see Brooke East Africa's Programme Manager, Elijah Mithigi, in action on Kenyan TV. To get a more in depth look at the issue, read this blog, written by Brooke East Africa's Advocacy and Innovations Officer, Samuel Theuri.  

Brooke has also created a fact sheet on farming and breeding for the donkey skin trade.