African Union bans the ‘brutal’ slaughtering of donkeys for their hides


ADDIS ABABA – The African Union (AU) has taken a historic stand as it recently approved a ban on the slaughter of donkeys for their hides. 

The measure was approved Sunday at the end of the African leaders' summit in Ethiopia and may go a long way in helping to protect the continent's 33 million donkeys.

Image: The Donkey Sanctuary 

It will make it illegal to slaughter donkeys for their skin across the continent.

The ban comes in response to the burgeoning demand for Ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine made from donkey hides. 

While some believe Ejiao has anti-aging and health benefits, these claims remain unproven.

Chinese manufacturers, initially sourcing donkey skins domestically, turned to international markets as the local donkey population dwindled. 

This shift has had devastating effects on global donkey populations, particularly in Africa and South America.

The Donkey Sanctuary, an international animal welfare charity, hailed the AU's decision. 

"This historic decision taken by the African Union recognizes, at the highest level of decision making, the vital importance of donkeys across Africa," the charity stated. 

It further described the trade in donkey hides as "brutal and unsustainable," noting that it poses "a very real existential threat" to the animals, with 5.9 million donkeys killed annually for Ejiao production.

Dr. Solomon Onyango from the Donkey Sanctuary in Kenya explained the initial governmental response to the trade. "At first our governments saw this as an opportunity, and many legal slaughterhouses opened in Africa," he said. 

"But, [here in Kenya], between 2016 and 2019, about half of our donkeys were killed for the trade."

Donkeys play a crucial role in Africa, particularly in the poorest communities where they are used for transportation and to carry goods, including water. 

They constitute about two-thirds of the world's estimated 53 million donkeys. 

A recent study revealed that owning a donkey can mean the difference between destitution and a modest livelihood for many African families.

Marianne Steele, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, emphasized the importance of protecting donkeys. 

"Donkeys are sensitive and intelligent creatures who deserve protection for their own sakes and for the countless communities who rely on them," she said.

Raphael Kinoti, regional director of the animal welfare charity The Brooke in East Africa, described the ban as a "terrific moment for communities in Africa who have benefitted from donkeys since time immemorial." 

He added, "Donkey slaughter for its skin has eroded livelihoods in Africa, robbing the continent of its culture, biodiversity, and identity."

Kinoti concluded with a call to action: "We urge all AU members to uphold the decision for the good of all."

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