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The Hidden Tragedy of Donkey Slaughter for Traditional Medicine

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The Hidden Tragedy of Donkey Slaughter for Traditional Medicine

Several million burros (Horse ass) are stolen and slaughtered every year in Africa and other parts of the world with a macabre purpose: to use their remains as traditional medicine for certain communities in these countries. This is an animal tragedy ignored by the population that has been exposed by the BBC.

The theft of these animals is a practice that is booming in many parts of Africa and Asia, but also in other regions of the planet, which have large populations of these working animals.

In China, for example, there is a great demand for a traditional remedy made from donkey skin gelatin known as ejiao. Properties, not always supported by science, are attributed to it to improve health and preserve youth.

The skin of animals is boiled to extract gelatin, which is then made into powder, pills, or liquid, or added to certain foods.

Activists against donkey skin trade have denounced that the rural population that depends on these animals for their daily work are victims of an unsustainable demand for ejiao.

The Donkey Sanctuary organization has released a report in which it estimates that at least 5.9 million donkeys are slaughtered around the world each year to supply the demand for this supposedly healing product. And he also states that Demand is growing, although there are no figures facts about this aspect that support how many animals are really killed to supply the ejiao industry.

In Africa, where around two-thirds of the world‘s 53 million donkeys live, there is a wide variety of regulations, since the export of their skins is legal in some countries and illegal in others. But it doesn’t matter: high demand and high prices for pelts fuel donkey theft, and Donkey Sanctuary says it has discovered animals being moved across international borders to reach places where the trade is legal, according to the report. the BBC.

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The governments of all African states have decided to prohibit the slaughter and export of donkeys. Brazil could soon do the same.

Apart from the cruelty of this industry, these are animals that transport people, goods, water, and food, which is why they constitute the backbone of many rural communities in less developed countries. Thousands of families are deprived of the basis of their livelihood when their donkeys are stolen of which they are owners.

Faith Burden, head veterinarian at Donkey Sanctuary, explains that women and girls are the most affected when an animal is stolen. “Once it disappears, women basically become the new donkey”, Explain. And there is a bitter irony in this because ejiao is mainly marketed to wealthier Chinese women.

However, the problem could now spread to other parts of the world. In fact, ejiao producers used to use donkey skins from China. However, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of that country, and The number of donkeys has plummeted from 11 million in 1990 to just under 2 million in 2021. At the same time, ejiao went from being a luxury for a few to becoming a popular and widely used product.

For this reason, Chinese companies looked for leather suppliers abroad, and this is how Donkey slaughterhouses were established in Africa, South America, and Asia.

This situation led to all kinds of internal convulsions in those countries. In Ethiopia, for example, one of the two slaughterhouses in the country was closed after protests and street riots calling for its closure.

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Countries such as Tanzania and Ivory Coast banned the slaughter and export of donkey skins in 2022, but China’s neighbor Pakistan legalized the trade. The main problem is that Behind all this situation, there is a big business. According to Professor Lauren Johnston, a specialist in China-Africa relations at the University of Sydney, the value of the ejiao market in China increased from about $3.2 billion in 2013 to about $7.8 billion in 2020.

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