•In May, the High Court lifted a ban on donkey slaughterhouses across Kenya that had been in place since February last year.
•Donkey slaughter was legalised in 2012, leading to a rapid decimation of the animal’s population and cross-border theft.
Lamu donkey owners and stakeholders want the government to abolish a section of the food consumption law that allows the slaughter and consumption of donkeys.
In the law, donkeys are classified as edible domestic animals meaning it’s legal for them to be killed for food.
They also want donkey abattoirs around the country shut down to save the donkeys from extinction.
In Lamu, donkeys are at the heart of the region’s culture and heritage and are treated as sacred and part of the family.
Speaking during a stakeholders forum on Tuesday, they also warned that they would not allow a donkey abattoir or any industry seeking to promote the killing of donkeys in the region.
In May, the High Court lifted a ban on donkey slaughterhouses across Kenya that had been in place since February last year.
This allowed the resumption of slaughter and sale of donkey meat and hides to Asian markets and beyond.
The stakeholders feel that the decision is going to have a repeat of the previous situation.
Donkey slaughter was legalised in 2012, leading to a rapid decimation of the animal’s population and cross-border theft.
Lamu county Livestock and Cooperative Development director Jamila Mitsanze said the law remains the greatest threat to the donkey population in Lamu and across the country.
She said there is a need for the law to recognise that donkeys are an ancient part of Lamu’s heritage and any plot to kill them should be opposed.
In Lamu old town and other far-flung islands in the archipelago, donkeys are the major means of transport.
The town was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001 owing to its well-preserved ancient culture and heritage which includes the retainment of donkeys as the mode of transport.
“There is a lot of edible animals, donkeys should be spared as they are a heritage worthy of protection. We are calling on the government to close all abattoirs,” Mitsanze said.
Despite Lamu not having a single donkey abattoir, the Lamu Donkey Owners spokesperson Abdallah Khalid said the existing law has led to the theft of their donkeys which are then secretly sold outside Lamu.
“It’s against Islam to eat donkeys. We are therefore rejecting any plans to have a donkey abattoir in this region,” Khalid said.
He said the high demand for donkey meat exported to China and other Asian countries has led to massive theft of donkeys and a drastic reduction in their population, in the country at large.
Lamu West subcounty veterinary officer Felix Rachuonyo urged donkey owners to ensure their donkeys are not loitering around for food where there is a high chance of them being stolen and sold to such markets.
“The key point is the welfare of the donkeys. Don't overload them, feed them and let them rest,” Rachuonyo said.
“The county will give all necessary support considering donkeys hold an integral part in the culture of this place.”
The OIE-a World organization dealing with animal health, Focal Person in charge of animal welfare in Kenya Solomon Onyango urged donkey owners to make use of the Donkey sanctuary located in Lamu island to ensure their animal’s health is taken care of at no charge.
Lamu Island has a population of over 3,000 donkeys.
Currently, Kenya has four donkey abattoirs.
They are located in Baringo, Naivasha in Nakuru, Turkana and Kithyoko in Machakos county, all with a processing capacity of 1,000 donkeys per day.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2019, showed that the country’s donkey population had decreased over the previous 10 years, from 1.8 million donkeys in 2009 to 1.17 million in 2019.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris