JOHANNESBURG – Animal activists have cheered the announcement made by Kenyan agricultural minister Peter Munya that the country’s four donkey abattoirs would be shut down over the next month.
In an interview broadcast on KTN News Kenya, Munya said government wanted to stop the “criminality” and “brutality” associated with the commercial slaughter of the animals, “and restore the donkey to its rightful place in our society”.
Donkeys supported livelihoods and were a means of transport for low-income earners, he added.
He was further quoted saying that the “stealing of donkeys, wanton and unmitigated slaughter of donkeys [had] led to a drastic reduction in the donkey population.”
Slaughtering of the animals was legalised in 2012 to meet a growing demand in China, according to the BBC, but Munya conceded that the decision was a poor one as it would soon lead to the decimation of the animals, which were being stolen to keep up with demand.
About 1000 of the creatures were being slaughtered a day, according to government research.
Munya also said that community members in rural areas used the animals to fetch water and firewood, which had raised fears that dwindling numbers would increase the workload for rural women.
Responding to the ban, global animal charity, the Brooke said: “The unprecedented and unsustainable demand for donkey skins is being driven by a rapid growth in popularity of a traditional Chinese medicine called ejiao.
“Plummeting donkey numbers in China led ejiao manufacturers to source donkeys from Africa, and Kenya became a hub for the trade.”
Kenya has about 600 000 donkeys compared to 1.8 million a decade ago, according to government data.
Another international working animal charity, SPANA, also welcomed the closing of the abattoirs, saying it was positive news for Kenya’s working donkeys and the communities that depended on them.