Former National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) Chairman John Mututho has urged the government to rescind its decision of allowing the exportation of donkey skins in a bid to contain the illegal slaughter of the animals in the country.
The former Naivasha Member of Parliament on Wednesday raised concerns over the declining population of donkeys in the country which he attributed to the trade,further noting the animals are stolen, slaughtered by unscrupulous butchers and their meat sold to unsuspecting customers
“By gazetting export of donkey skins or hides,the Director Veterinary Services shamelessly ignored 15 years of African states ban on donkey slaughter in Africa.Please revoke that notice to save unnecessary stealing and subsequent killing of these animals used at home for work, instead cartels misuse of them is growing by the day before slaughtering and selling their meat to unsuspecting customers while their skin is sold abroad and especially in China,” he said.
In recent years, smallholder farmers across Kenya have faced an unusual problem: They have awoken to find that during the night, their donkeys — essential for heavy labor — have been skinned by thieves, leaving only the carcasses behind.
Demand for donkey skin has risen in recent years, driven by its use in Chinese health products that claim to help with health issues such as preventing aging or increasing libido. Because China itself doesn’t have enough donkeys to meet the demand, large-scale slaughterhouses have been set up in Kenya, turning the country into a hub for the export of donkey skins.
“In the next five, 10 years we shall be talking about an animal that was called the donkey in Africa, especially in Kenya.” added Mututho
Many advocates and researchers are now calling for a complete ban on the slaughter of donkeys in Kenya, arguing that when the slaughter houses were licensed, there was not an adequate understanding of the impact it would have.
“Donkeys are completely embedded in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Raphael Kinoti, CEO of Farming Systems Kenya.Since 2016, we’ve had a massive slaughter of donkeys and it’s the farmers that are feeling the heat.” remarked Kinoti in 2019 during the Conference on Africa’s Agricultural Productivity in Nairobi.
Across the African continent, smallholder farmers who can’t afford mechanized equipment use donkeys for the heavy lifting needed for cultivating land, transporting hay and silage, and hauling water and firewood.
According to Brookes East Africa lobby group which caters for the welfare of working animals, a survey conducted by the government indicated that over 700,000 donkeys have been lost within 10 years.
An estimated 10 million people in East Africa rely on donkeys to support their livelihoods, according to animal charity Brooke, which found that each donkey generates an average of $110 per month for the families that use them.
It estimates that more than 500,000 donkeys have been slaughtered in Kenya since 2016, or 15% of the country’s donkey population. That has cost about 28 billion Kenyan shillings ($273 million) in lost income — 15 times the gross revenue generated from the export of donkey meat and skin.