Donkey hide trade is not a sustainable business model for Kenya

In Summary
  • Kenya declared donkeys as animals to be used as food animals in 1999
  • The illegal bush slaughter for the skins led to the notable sale of donkey meat disguised as beef
Donkey owners in Kirinyaga county support the recent ban on donkey slaughter
BAN: Donkey owners in Kirinyaga county support the recent ban on donkey slaughter
Image: /Reuben Githinji

In Kenya, donkeys are important animals that support the livelihoods of donkey-owning communities. They provide transport for the household ferrying water, firewood, farm inputs, farm produce and other household items from one point to another destination.

Removing the donkey from the equation of providing the basics needs for such households only makes their lives more difficult and may not be justified by any formula in the current socio-economic environment.

In the year 1999, the Government of Kenya through the Legal Notice 146 (Declaration of Animals) declared donkeys as animals to be used as food animals.

The main reason was that a few Kenyan communities were traditionally slaughtering donkeys for meat and this required some regulation so that their meat was inspected and confirmed suitable for human consumption.

However, it is noteworthy that this was on a very small scale and cannot be compared with the commercial slaughter of donkeys. Using the gesture of the same legal notice, the Government of Kenya licensed commercial donkey slaughter for export purposes.

A total of four commercial slaughterhouses were licensed between 2016 and 2018 in the counties of Baringo, Nakuru, Turkana and Machakos leading to heavy exploitation of donkeys in Kenya.

It is important to note this heavy exploitation of donkeys has been warranted by the high demand for donkey skin in China, not the meat per se. The meat is sold as a by-product to other countries.

Since the commercial donkey slaughter started in Kenya in the year 2016, there has been a huge outcry by donkey-owning communities and civil society organizations that spearhead community interests on matters of their livelihoods.

This is mainly because, since the start of the commercial slaughter of donkeys in the year 2016, the government has reported a huge population decline from 1,965,632 donkeys to 1,176,374 donkeys.

According to Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, the four abattoirs were slaughtering approximately 1000 donkeys per day causing the decline in the donkey population.

In addition, most of the donkeys that were delivered to the slaughterhouses were stolen from communities.

There was also an upsurge of donkeys being stolen from owners, slaughtered in the bush and their meat sold in local butcheries to unsuspecting customers.

The illegal bush slaughter for the skins led to the notable sale of donkey meat disguised as beef or other meat. Such cases have been reported in the media from Kajiado, Nairobi and Naivasha.

This is a public health safety concern and exposes consumers and handlers to zoonotic diseases because such meat is not inspected to confirm that it is fit for human consumption.

The skins of donkeys slaughtered in the bush were also sold to middlemen in the donkey skin trade.

If commercial exploitation of donkeys continues in Kenya, it will lead to the extinction of donkeys from the country because donkeys are also poor breeders and it is difficult to farm them commercially. Many children will again revert to doing the work that the donkeys do for the household.

They will be tasked with fetching water from water points, firewood from forests and farm produce from farmlands, hence not able to concentrate on their education. This is not a desirable situation for the country.

Given the foregoing, it is important that the Government of Kenya realizes that commercial exploitation of donkeys is not sustainable, that the donkey skin trade has serious negative socio-economic impacts to donkey depend

The donkey population has been depleted drastically since the slaughter was licensed, that the slaughterhouses have demonstrated an inability to comply with government directives or initiating self-regulating sustainability best practices.

In conclusion, Kenya should protect its citizens from the profound negative effects of businesses such as the donkey hide trade.

Therefore, the ban on the donkey skin trade as well as the commercial slaughter of donkeys in Kenya should be properly imposed and effected and regulations put in place to protect donkeys and their owners.

Eston Mureithi is CEO -KENDAT

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