Donkeys to be wiped out in two years if ban not reimposed — vets

Ban on slaughter imposed in February 2020 by Agriculture CS Peter Munya was recently lifted by court.

In Summary

• In 2009, Kenya Population and Housing Census placed the donkey population at 1,832,519.

• In 2016, the Ministry of Livestock data noted an increase in donkey population to 1,965,632, representing a growth rate of 1.04 per cent

Donkey carcase
Donkey carcase
Image: FILE

The decision by the High Court that lifted the ban on the slaughter of donkeys is an affront to the women and farming community, the Union of Veterinary Practitioners has said.

Association secretary-general Miheso Mulembani said in a statement that the move will see donkeys wiped out in the next two years.

"The decision is akin to rewarding donkey cartels who steal and maim donkeys for their skin over the women, pastoral community, and farmers whose daily survival is intertwined with donkeys," Mulembani said.

The High Court lifted the ban on May 5, striking a blow at the campaign to protect donkeys and communities that are dependent on them for transport and other uses.

Justice Richard Mwongo criticised the state for failing to respond to issues raised by Star Brilliant, a slaughterhouse, against a Gazette notice that imposed the ban.

“The state has failed to sufficiently defend this case and this court quashes the Legal Notice 63 of 2020 as it violates the rights of Star Brilliant under Article 47 of the Constitution,” Mwongo said.

The ban was imposed in February last year by Agriculture CS Peter Munya. It came after concerns were raised about declining donkey populations. But Star Brilliant challenged it in court.

Mulembani said donkeys play a critical role in the socio-economic development of rural and urban Kenya.

"We ask the new Chief Justice Hon Martha Koome to effect rotational policy for judges to understand the role of the donkeys in the socio-cultural fabric in Kenya."

He said over the last four years, the donkey population has declined by over 66 per cent from 1.8 million to less than 600,000.

"With a court order to reopen donkey slaughterhouses, donkeys will be wiped out from the face of Kenya within the next two years," Mulembani said.

"Why should courts fuel the multimillion donkey skin industry in China at the expense of the Kenyan rural women?"

Mulembani urged CS Munya to move with speed and withdraw licences for all donkey slaughterhouses and degazette donkeys as food animals.

Veterinary Practitioners chairperson Benson Kibore said they strongly oppose the reopening of slaughterhouses.

"Courts must be alive to the role of donkeys in the socio-economic fabric of our Rural Women, urban youth and pastoral communities," he said.

Kibore said donkey merchants purchase them for as little as Sh5,000 and sell their skin in China for the production of medicinal gelatin called ejiao at over Sh100,000 per donkey skin.

Africa Network for Animal Welfare acting executive director Josiah Ojwang also warned that the move risks wiping out donkeys.

"Donkeys are poor breeders with high abortion rates. They have a gestation period of 12-14 months calving at an interval of one foal in three to four years, unlike a cow that gives birth every year," Ojwang said.

A study by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation in 2019 showed that the annual mean rate (5.1 per cent) of donkeys slaughtered was five times higher than the annual donkey population growth rate (1.04 per cent).

Experts project that the number of donkeys slaughtered since the opening of slaughterhouses implied that by 2023, their population will be depleted, holding all factors constant.

In 2009, Kenya Population and Housing Census reported the donkey population as 1,832,519. In 2016, the Ministry of Livestock data noted an increase to 1,965,632, representing a growth rate of 1.04 per cent.

In 2019, Kenya Population and Housing Census placed their population at 1,176,374. The population reduced by 789,258 in three years after the opening of the first slaughterhouse in Kenya in 2016.

Along with Star Brilliant, three slaughterhouses are set to reopen following the lifting of the ban. Star Brilliant, a slaughterhouse in Naivasha, is worth Sh200 million. It can slaughter 200 donkeys a day.

Goldox Slaughter House in Mogotio, Baringo county, is reported to be worth Sh300 million and can slaughter 400 donkeys a day. It began its operations in 2016 and is owned by a Chinese investor.

Silzha Slaughterhouse in Lodwar, Turkana county, was opened in 2016 and is said to have cost Sh200 million. The facility can slaughter 200 to 300 donkeys a day.

The fourth facility is Fuhai Trading Company Slaughterhouse in Kithyoko, Machakos county.