Sidmouth-based charity calls for halt to global trade in donkey skins

Donkey carcasses smoulder at a government-approved slaughterhouse.

Donkey carcasses smoulder at a government-approved slaughterhouse. - Credit: Archant

An investigation from a charity founded in Sidmouth has revealed the mass-scale suffering of donkeys caught up in a global trade of their skins.

In the first comprehensive study of the trade – to satisfy the demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine that relies on gelatine from the hides – The Donkey Sanctuary has discovered that as many as 10million animals are at risk.

It is calling for an immediate halt to the trade until it can be proven to be sustainable and humane.

The charity’s Under the Skin report reveals that the trade has led to an explosion in the number of donkeys in Africa, Asia and South America being sourced, stolen and slaughtered for their skins, which are then destined for China.

The trade, in both its legal and illegal forms, is resulting in a chain of welfare issues for the donkeys at every step, from sourcing to transport and finally slaughter.

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Alex Mayers, the international programme manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “We’ve seen reports of donkeys being skinned alive, being bludgeoned to death, being transported for long distances with no opportunity to rest, feed or drink.

“Donkeys are a very intelligent species and particularly sensitive to the effects of stress.

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“The welfare of any donkey both during and at the end of its life is paramount and should be the primary concern, as for any food-producing animal.

“Sadly the welfare of donkeys used to produce skins and meat is frequently reported to be ‘severely compromised’ during sourcing, transport and slaughter.”

According to the report, virtually all countries with significant donkey populations are showing an increase in donkey slaughter for this market and countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger have banned the export of donkey hides.

Donkeys caught up in the skin trade have little hope - the skin of an expensive, healthy animal generates the same profit as that of a diseased, poorly kept or weak animal, which means that traders often see no value in maintaining good welfare conditions.

Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker said: “Donkey populations cannot continue to be decimated and communities must not be deprived of their only means of survival.

“Action must be taken now to curb this trade, in the interest of both animal and human welfare.”

Read the full report or support the charity at

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