Donkey Skin Trade FAQ

Donkeys in a stable

What is the donkey skin trade?

The donkey skin trade is fuelled by the growing demand for ‘ejiao’ – a gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine that is made by boiling down donkey skin.  It is putting global donkey populations at risk and threatening the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on them. While Africa remains the primary source of both legally and illegally-sourced donkey skins to China, the trade is spreading across the globe

What are the impacts of the global donkey skin trade?

There are major impacts in terms of both animal welfare and the livelihoods of their animal owners.  After donkeys are stolen or sold for their skins, they are often subjected to mistreatment, transportation in cramped and dangerous vehicles, starvation, neglect and inhumane slaughter.  

Donkeys are a major part of the working livestock sector and support the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries. They directly provide an income and save time and money in transporting goods from field to home to market. Working donkeys also provide vital domestic support. The shock of losing a donkey can destroy a person’s livelihood and push them into poverty.

How many donkeys are killed for this trade?

The demand is estimated to be 4.8 million skins each year, which means that almost half of the world’s donkeys could be wiped out in the next five years.

In Kenya before the ban, over 300,000 donkeys were killed between 2016 and 2018, translating to 15.4% of the population. The annual growth rate in donkey populations in Kenya is just over 1%. Reports have said that donkeys were also being smuggled from neighbouring countries like Ethiopia as well, reducing their numbers.

How many donkeys are stolen?

An average of 60 donkeys per week were reported stolen from donkey owning communities in Kenya in 2017. It is difficult to quantify how many are stolen elsewhere, but we have had reports from multiple countries across Africa. These donkeys are either transported to slaughterhouses in horrific conditions, or killed out in the open.

In which countries does the trade exist?

Reports from researchers, media and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have revealed that the scale and spread of the global donkey skin trade extends to the following countries:  Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, Burkina, Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and Brazil.

Are there other risks?

There are also health risks associated with the cross border trade in donkey skins. In April 2019, Brooke witnessed an outbreak of equine flu in West Africa that killed 60,000 donkeys in Niger alone. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) believes that it was linked to illegal transport of animals accross borders. 

What is the threat to donkeys as a species?

Despite the fact that Kenya banned donkey slaughter on 23 February 2020, illegal slaughter and legal slaughter in other countries across Africa continues to decimate donkey populations.  If these were wild animals, they would be protected from this horrific rate of slaughter by international law and policy, but working horses, donkeys and mules are often overlooked.

Why can’t donkeys be replaced through breeding?

Donkeys have long gestation periods and are difficult to breed in large groups, especially with high welfare standards, and in environments with limited resources. It is not a sustainable solution.

What is ejiao and how is it made?

Ejiao is a hard gel that can be dissolved in hot water or alcohol to be used in food or drink, or in beauty products such as face creams. Believed to improve blood circulation, ejiao is used as a blood tonic by people with anaemia, low blood cell counts or reproductive problems.  Ejiao is made by boiling down donkey skins for their gelatin content. 

How do you pronounce ejiao?

Ejiao is pronounced eh-gee-yow.

What is ejiao used for, and what products contain it?

Ejiao’s users believe that it treats a variety of conditions such as bleeding, dizziness, insomnia and a dry cough. Donkey skin is used in products that allegedly boost libido and contain anti-aging properties, and is also used in some food products. 

What cosmetic companies are using ejiao?

Dong-E-E-Jiao is one of the biggest manufacturers of ejiao itself. Recently, they reportedly donated ejiao to hospitals treating coronavirus.

What can supporters do now?

Sharing stories of those who’ve been affected via social media is one of the best ways to raise awareness.    As a general introduction to the issues surrounding the crisis, this is a good page to share with your friends: www.thebrooke.org/our-work/donkey-skin-trade