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.
African countries vow to ban donkey skin trade
Government ministers from a number of African countries have signed a historic declaration urging the African Union Commission to install a continental ban on the donkey skin trade for at least the next 15 years. The declaration was introduced during the Pan African Donkey Conference in Tanzania in December 2022.
7 facts about donkey skin trade
What you need to know about the trade
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.
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.
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.
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.
DONKEY SKIN TRADE FAQ
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