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, mostly from Africa, causing donkey numbers across the continent 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.

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The ban on the donkey skin trade ban in Kenya was overturned in May 2021, but thankfully, as of August 2021, none of the in-county slaughterhouses have been re-licenced, and the government has said they are not intending to grant them. On 26 August, donkey owners from 28 counties across the country handed in over 30,000 signatures to encourage the government to go one step further, and re-instate the ban.

Because Kenya has been a big influence on other countries in East Africa with regards to the trade, a slaughterhouse was opened in Tanzania, but subsequently closed due to animal welfare concerns. There are still fears that illegal smuggling will start taking place in Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries unless a new ban is implemented.

Meanwhile, 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.

Take Action Now is profiting from the sale of products containing ejiao, a gelatin made from donkey skins. It comes in the form of herbal teas, beauty products, candy, and supplements.

Add your name to our petition now and help us stop Amazon selling ejiao.

The more voices we have calling for a ban donkey skin trade, the bigger the movement, and the more significant change we can make. Brooke has two ongoing petitions, one to call on leaders across the world to ban the trade, and the other, launched in February 2021, to target the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and bring about a targetted ban in Eastern Africa. Please, join us and sign your name.

Seven Facts about the donkey skin trade

What you need to know about the trade

News archive - 2021

Fighting for donkeys in court

In 2020 the campaign against the donkey skin trade hit a huge milestone - the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives announced that they would be banning the slaughter of donkeys. Kenya has been the epicentre of the donkey skin trade, especially in East Africa. 

However, slaughterhouses fought back and appealed against the legal notice. After a yearlong battle in the courts, we received the tremendously disappointing news that on 5 May 2021 the court had ruled in favour of the slaughterhouses, and the ban has now been overturned. Read the full story here.

Brooke East Africa is now in the process of planning activities that will help to reverse the decision to overturn the ban. Donkey owners across the country are extremely worried about the impact the lifting of the ban will have on the safety of their donkeys, and there have already been reports of donkey theft, so Brooke East Africa are currently helping communities petition the government to take action and reinstate the ban.

Taking action in Tanzania

The donkey skin trade is also present in Tanzania, a neighbouring country of Kenya, so it is the next target for the Brooke East Africa team.

Two slaughterhouses had licences to slaughter donkeys, but these expired at the end of June 2020. Brooke and our in-country partners had been working with the Tanzanian authorities to try to make sure these licences weren't renewed, building important relationships with both the Chief Veterinary Officer and the Ministry of Agriculture. To bolster these efforts, and thanks to supporters of our campaign, we were able to fund three advertisements in the Tanzanian press, showcasing the value of the donkey. 

Sadly, the government made the decision to extend the licences until the end of 2020. However, now, with them expired once again and with no reported renewal, we are hoping it will lead to a full ban in the coming weeks. 

What is Brooke doing to help?

To mark World Animal Day 2019, we 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.

We are also working to eradicate the donkey skin trade through various initiatives. 

  • We work on the frontline with donkey-owning communities. Brooke East Africa and their partners have helped to set up over 400 groups with over 9000 members.  
  • We fund community-led initiatives to protect their donkeys.
  • We add resources on the ground to expand lobbying and community engagement.
  • We mobilise communities and help them gather evidence and present it to their governments.
  • We collaborate with other animal focussed organisations to learn from their experiences. 
  • We alerted the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to get the issue on the worldwide agenda.


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.

A Brooke webinar on the donkey skin trade

On 27 May 2020 Brooke held a webinar to update our supporters and campaigners on how we've been tackling the trade in East and West Africa, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the trade. It featured Emmanuel Sarr from Brooke West Africa and Lyne Iyadi from Brooke East Africa, and was hosted by Nigel Wilson, Director of Programmes. You can watch it again here.


How can you help?

Right now, we are working on the next stages of our campaign, and how you can get involved. Our supporters have already funded a massive amount of our work to tackle the donkey skin trade, and helped us to influence policy. 

To make sure you get the latest information on how you can get involved in our campaign, make sure you opt in to share your email address with us when you sign the petition

On World Donkey Day 2020, Jonathan Collier, Global External Affairs Advisor at Brooke, blogged about the enduring threat to donkeys caught up in the trade, and our plans for the future. Read it here


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