The Slaughter of Donkeys for Skins

Safe Haven for Donkeys has been monitoring the horrendous trade in donkey skins for a number of years. We have thankfully yet to find any evidence that it has affected donkeys in the countries we operate within, although we recognise the issue is having a devastating impact on donkeys worldwide.

As a donkey welfare charity, Safe Haven wants to see this vile trade banned.

Over four million donkeys are slaughtered every year for their skins, fuelled by what is now an insatiable demand. For centuries, the Chinese elite have used donkey milk and collagen removed from skins as beauty products. Even though there is no scientific basis for this, these products have become more widely available to the general public as the Chinese economy has grown. The end product, ejiao (pronounced urjow), is now sold around the world, although the main market remains in China.

Donkeys are still a vital resource in many countries, where they are relied on for farming, transport and construction. Recognising their value to communities, some countries have banned the slaughter of donkeys for their skins. However, where slaughter is still permitted, purpose-built abattoirs can kill in excess of 500 donkeys a day.

The demand for donkeys to supply this horrific market has not only increased the value of the animals but also resulted in criminal activity that sees donkeys stolen from their owners and illegally slaughtered, often in very cruel ways.

In 2019, the Kenyan government banned the slaughter of donkeys although the principal slaughterhouses, mainly operated by Chinese businesses, opposed the ban. At the beginning of May 2021, Safe Haven learned that a court in Kenya had overruled the ban on a technicality. It appears that in banning the trade, the Kenyan government had not followed the correct legal processes. The government now has a period of time to respond to this although it is likely that the slaughter will resume.

At the end of 2020, Safe Haven funded an investigation into claims that donkeys in Kenya were being slaughtered, even though the ban was supposedly still in place. At one abattoir, fresh skins were discovered. An employee claimed the herd was breeding stock but when the 300 donkeys present were examined, most were found to be stallions, suggesting the animals were present for one purpose only – to be slaughtered.

It appears that whatever measures are put in place to stop this needless trade, those profiting from the mass slaughter of donkeys will find ways to circumvent them. As a result, donkey populations worldwide are at risk, with animals dying in pain and communities left without a vital resource.

Safe Haven will continue to monitor the situation and work with other animal welfare charities to highlight the horrors of a trade that is driven purely by human vanity, and bring it to an end.


For more information on our investigation, click here: Kenya Donkey Slaughter Investigation