In the wake of international press coverage and local protests concerning the exportation of donkey skins from developing countries to China, Kenyan officials stated the “licenses to slaughter donkeys are … revoked immediately.” The Ministry announced the ban on Feb. 24, the same day the Association of Donkey Owners in Kenya led a protest march in Nairobi. The four donkey slaughterhouses in Kenya have 28 days to “transform their slaughterhouses” for processing strictly cows, sheep, and chickens, ministry officials said in a statement.
Welfare is not listed as a reason for the ban. The Ministry of Agriculture’s cabinet secretary, Peter Munya, cited primarily economic reasons for the new decree. His response to the protesters is posted on the Ministry’s website: “Slaughter of donkeys and trade in related donkey products has promoted vices like stealing of donkeys, (and the) wanton and unmitigated slaughter of donkeys, which ha[ve] led to [a] drastic reduction in the donkey population. This has, consequently, impacted negatively on the economic welfare and the livelihoods of the families of those who rely on donkeys for transport and as a means of facilitating trade.”
Lacking the supply needed to meet demand for its production of a traditional medicine called ejiao, Chinese manufacturers have been importing donkey hides from across the globe, said Faith Burden, PhD, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary, in the U.K. Currently, the industry requires nearly 5 million donkey hides a year, the primary ingredient for ejiao, which is purported to treat circulatory conditions, improve energy, and slow signs of aging.
While the ban is a positive step forward for donkey welfare and better livelihood for the owners who rely on them for work and transport, it doesn’t mean the donkey skin trade is over, said Amy McLean, PhD, equine lecturer at the University of California, Davis.
“It’s exciting the slaughter ban has been put in place in Kenya, but I worry bush slaughter will increase, and/or live export (to African countries where slaughter remains legal) may start in order to fuel the market that’s still in existence,” she said. “Both will have horrible welfare conditions for the donkeys. I still think the pressure will remain, and we need to consider how to save donkeys for the future or include/introduce donkey breeding and replacement plans, so a family doesn’t have to go without a donkey.”