Alarm as hide trade threatens to wipe out donkey populations

Gelatin, found in donkey hides, is a key ingredient in ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

An animal welfare and rescue group has warned that donkeys are in a state of global crisis as the animals face population collapse across several countries.

This is because dealers target their skin for sale. The Donkey Sanctuary said traders target the animals’ hides for export as an ingredient for making ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine.

A recent report by the group focusing on donkey skin trade found that local donkey populations have dipped in several countries as increasing demand for ejiao has led to an untenable number of donkeys being slaughtered.

Gelatin, found in donkey hides, is a key ingredient in ejiao and The Donkey Sanctuary is now calling for an urgent halt to the largely unregulated global trade before they are virtually wiped out in some areas.

“Tens of thousands of donkeys, many which are stolen, are rounded up to endure long journeys to slaughterhouses in crowded trucks without access to food, water or rest with an estimated 20 per cent of the animals dying en route, in some cases. Demand for skins is so high that even pregnant mares and young foals as well as sick and injured donkeys are indiscriminately caught and transported, contrary to international animal welfare guidelines,” the report said.

The unhygienic practices during the transport process, in slaughterhouses and when the hides are processed onwards have similarly resulted in an increased risk of the spread of dangerous diseases such as anthrax and equine diseases, equine flu and strangles.

Mike Baker, the Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, said the suffering of the animals is of an enormous and unacceptable scale and is not only just confined to donkeys since it also threatens the livelihood of millions of people.