Ethiopia: Demand for Africa’s donkeys causing terrible suffering


Brooke is deeply concerned about donkeys being stolen and abused for their hides.

The Problem

(Brooke) — There have been widespread reports from many African countries of donkeys being stolen, horrifically mistreated and cruelly slaughtered for their hides, to meet an increased demand from China. The hides are used in producing ‘ejiao’ for traditional Chinese medicine. There are welfare abuses in the holding, slaughter and transport of thousands of donkeys.
Overwhelming demand is also impoverishing poor African families who rely on the labour of these animals to earn a living. Substantial loss of earnings and extreme price inflation of donkeys mean that poor people cannot afford to replace their animal and can backslide into poverty.
The rapidly evolving relationship between China and Africa has attractive benefits to investors. However, there are devastating unintended consequences. Consideration must be given to the needs of poor people and their essential livestock.
Irrespective of whether or not people agree with the use of donkey products, it is vital that the welfare of donkeys involved is properly addressed. International Brooke teams are working together and collaborating with governments and other stakeholders to tackle this issue.
“The effect we’re seeing on the African donkey population is proving even greater than we originally feared. Alarming reports have been coming in from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, and it’s clear that it is affecting the people who rely on donkeys to support their livelihoods.
“The suffering taking place is stark, and it is unacceptable. We are against all these illegal activities, and are taking steps to do everything in our power to prevent it. We have already funded a study looking at new slaughterhouses in Kenya, and are waiting for the results. This will help us to better understand the issue.
“Brooke strongly believes that the lifetime value of donkeys in their contribution to community livelihoods is worth more than being sold for their meat or hides. In taking away someone’s donkey, it can mean taking away their means of making a living, potentially for a dangerously long time.
We work tirelessly to reduce suffering, and will respectfully tackle the issues, standing shoulder to shoulder with donkey owners.
Taking Action
Brooke is working on a country by country basis, with national governments and donkey owning communities as they struggle to protect the welfare of donkeys and people’s livelihoods in the face of this growing challenge.
We have funded a study carried out by an organisation called GardenVet in Kenya. They have documented the impact of the donkey trade and slaughter process on donkey welfare in Kenya and to identify areas that need improvement to conform to donkey welfare best practices. The full results are expected soon, and will help us decide on what the next steps should be.
Advocating for better welfare
Brooke has championed the essential role of donkeys in poor people’s livelihoods. We recently succeeded in having donkeys’ contributions to food security and nutrition officially recognised by the UN in livestock recommendations formally endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). We were supported by the governments of Senegal and Kenya, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N. We have also ensured that the donkey hide trade is included in the Emerging and Critical Issues Consultation by the CFS High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE)
Working with governments
In April 2016, the Government of Senegal introduced a Bylaw to regulate donkey slaughter and forbid export of donkey meat and hide. This also led to similar action in Burkina Faso, where Brooke West Africa funded a research project to highlight the importance of equine animals in the Burkina households’ livelihoods. However, simply calling for a ban on donkey export will not necessarily stop donkeys being abused. Brooke West Africa is monitoring this situation and is not aware of any reports of illegal donkey hide export in Senegal. We are also working with the government of Kenya, where government approved abattoirs are already in operation.
Pragmatic solutions
Donkey slaughter is a reality in many countries. We are currently supporting the Humane Slaughter Association on developing guidance to reduce suffering.