KENYA – Kenya has issued a ban on the commercial slaughtering of donkeys in the country following numerous complaints from donkey owners and further protest procession by the Association of Donkey Owners on rampant theft and dwindling numbers of the livestock.
Kenya legalised trade in donkey meat and hide in 2012 to meet growing demand in China.
According to Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture, Peter Munya the decision had been a mistake as it had caused the donkey population to fall.
Mr Munya further stated that abattoirs licensed to slaughter donkeys had a month to switch to slaughtering other animals or else they would be closed.
The licenced slaughterhouses in Kenya are Goldox Slaughter House, Star Brilliant in Nakuru County, Silzha Ltd in Turkana County and Fuhai Trading Company Limited in Machakos County.
The mass slaughtering of donkeys has also spawned a black market with skin-smuggling networks hiring gangs to steal donkeys, locals say.
Most stolen donkeys were allegedly ferried out of the counties of origin alive or slaughtered in the bush, deboned and their skin and meat taken away, or skinned and the carcasses abandoned.
Meat from donkeys slaughtered in the bush was suspected to end up in local butcheries while the skin suspected to be exported to foreign markets where the demand was high.
Such high demand particularly by the Chinese market as well as high prices offered for donkey skin are undoubtedly fuelling global reports of poor donkey welfare, theft and a sudden increase in the purchase price of donkeys. One such case is the rise in price of the donkey from Kshs 4,000 to Kshs 13,000.
According to the Alliance for Donkey Welfare Organizations in Kenya (ADWOK), 4,800 donkeys were reported to have been stolen between January to August in 2018
China had around 11 million donkeys at one time but but the population was 4-5 million in 2018.
Apart from the meat being a delicacy there, Gelatin produced from donkey hide is a key ingredient of one of China’s favorite traditional remedies, known as ejiao used to treat a range of ailments from colds to insomnia.
With just under 5 million skins needed every year for ejiao production, the industry would need more than half the world’s current donkeys over the next five years to meet demand, according to a report from The Donkey Sanctuary.
To meet demand, Chinese businesses need about 4.8 million donkey hides per year. Donkey populations in China have collapsed 76% since 1992, so the industry has turned to foreign suppliers, particularly in Africa, Asia and South America.
Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal have banned donkey exports to China.