How many people are aware that donkeys are being brutally slaughtered across the world because of a demand for donkey skins in China?
Probably nowhere near as many as there should be. You might be thinking what do the Chinese want donkey skins for? An intelligent guess would probably associate it with traditional medicine and that would be right. Just like many other body parts from wild animals, donkey skin has been long considered to have essential medicinal components for possibly thousands of years. From enhancing the immune system to improving the blood circulation; for solving reproductive issues to helping anaemia; for soothing a dry cough to resolving dizziness and insomnia. There is no end of health problems it claims to help. Like the trend for farming wildlife animals for body parts, donkey skins are now being used for the growing demand in beauty products. Surely it is just a nonsense! There is so much abuse and cruelty dealt out to these beloved donkeys across the world how can it be acceptable in the 21st century? China’s craving for impotent medicinal remedies and desire for beautification amongst humans is at the expense of innocent animals. We are told it is due to the growth of China’s rich middle classes which always sounds odd when China is a communist country.
In China it is reported that millions of donkeys are farmed for their skins every year to produce a gelatin used in a product known as ejiao.
Donkey skins are boiled to extract the gelatin to produce ejiao. It becomes a hard gel that can be dissolved with hot water or alcohol and is used in food, drink and beauty products such as face creams. The ejiao industry has been expanding and experiencing a rapid growth rate of 15% for the past few years. Whilst demand for the product has been growing within China, export markets have been dwindling. It’s thought the obvious reason for decline is because international consumers have been made aware of the atrocious cruelty to the donkeys and the exaggerated claims of the products. Exports are still fairly large to some countries with largest being Japan ($13 million), USA ($12 million), Australia ($4 million) and Canada ($2.8 million). Australia has been exploring China’s ejiao market according to Humane Society International Australia. Ejiao products are apparently widely available in Australia so some hungry entrepreneurs want a slice of it.
As the demand for ejiao has become so great, China’s dwindling donkey population cannot keep up with production so they have been aggressively importing donkeys from across the world.
The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK updated their report “Under The Skin” in November 2019. They now estimate that the demand for donkeys in China could be 10 million donkeys a year, up from 4.8 million donkeys. This represents about a quarter of the world’s donkeys. When the Ministry of Agriculture in China included donkeys as a target industry it meant China needed to import many more donkeys. For the last six years China has been buying hides of millions of slaughtered donkeys from developing countries. This has caused immense animal welfare issues for the donkeys as well as a shortage of working donkeys in poor countries which are needed to support the livelihood of up to half a billion people. This is a disaster for those countries and 15 countries including Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Pakistan have stood up to the trade to protect their donkey populations.
What is most disturbing is the animal welfare abuse involved in the trade of donkeys across so many countries including China.
These poor donkeys can be rounded up, their legs tied together and loaded on to crowded trucks to endure long journeys to slaughterhouses without food or water. An estimate of 20% die on the journey. Others will be in agony from “broken or severed legs, or infected wounds, and be near to starvation”. Some donkeys are driven and walk for days across countries to reach various destinations near the coast where slaughterhouses can process large numbers ready for shipping to China. Some donkeys meet their end in an open field where the human slaughterers brutally kill them with hammers, axes and knives. Some of these donkeys will have been stolen. On top of that many slaughterhouses have unhygienic practices and have caused the spread of hazardous diseases such as anthrax, equine flu and strangles. It really is a disgusting trade in many countries across Africa, South America and Asia. China should be stopped.
It should come as no surprise that despite donkeys being typecast as ‘stubborn’ and ‘lazy’ they are in fact “highly intelligent and highly sensitive” as well as being “affectionate”.
Which means it’s hard to accept that they should be so badly mistreated and abused globally. Unfortunately the ejiao trade has become a booming business and intends to continue expanding to make even more profits for the Chinese. This can only mean more donkey skins are needed. Yet the benefits of ejiao have been exaggerated by Chinese businesses whose sole purpose is to make money. The Humane Society has said it is “a cruel and unsustainable industry producing a product that nobody needs”. Yet Australia is interested in investing in this gross shambles of an industry within the Northern Territory with a view to start donkey farming. Shame on Australia for even contemplating breeding donkeys for a product that is a sham and a disgrace. What is the Australian Government thinking?
Farming animals has many downsides for intelligent and social animals.
It’s not great news for what is considered to be ‘factory farming’ for donkeys in China. Here the Chinese want to focus their efforts on increasing yields for donkeys by using artificial insemination and harmonization of the estrus in female donkeys. This will keep females constantly pregnant. Chinese donkey breeders are also interested in new nutrition programmes to expediate growth. Something factory farming does for say chickens by ensuring full growth ready for slaughter at 6 weeks of age. With donkeys they would like them ready for slaughter at 18 months. What are we humans doing on this planet to all the animals we have set eyes on? Why do we have to carry out such unforgivable gross atrocities? In China barbarism towards animals has no barriers.
Based on the knowledge that we know medicinal purposes of ejiao have never been proven why do the donkeys have to be cruelly slaughtered?
The simple fact is the Chinese have no reason to produce ejiao as there are plenty of plant based alternatives to gelatin. For gelatin there are a number of substances which are vegan and have the same properties as gelatin. Check any ‘beauty products’ you use for ‘donkey oil’ and if you find any donkey items in the list of ingredients please complain to the company and refuse to use them again. China’s National Health & Family Planning Commission posted on its official Weibo site a blog entry entitled ‘Ejioa is not worth buying….’ and went on to say ‘eijao is simply boiled donkey skin’. This started a major social media frenzy which led to the Commission being told to retract their statement. The Chinese Government does not give you an option and the blog was quickly taken off the Weibo site.
This scene at a market is recounted by Jill Robinson, founder of the Animals Asia Foundation.
“Close by, truck after truck piled high with white goats begin arriving at the market, while donkeys are being dragged out of sheds and loaded into cages, trucked off to be slaughtered elsewhere. Frightened and exhausted, several have no strength to rise to their feet and the traders kick them in the stomachs and beat their backs with metal poles until they can stand the agony no more and rise on shaking legs. Even then, the abuse continues and the traders continue beating them and grabbing their tails, painfully twisting them into knots, and forcing the donkeys to climb up the metal ramps into the cages.”
So please speak up for donkeys around the world and spread the word about their dreadful existence and how China is trying to slaughter 10 million donkeys every year for their skin……..
Find out about the work The Donkey Sanctuary does for donkeys across the world.