Stakeholders alarm over donkey meat

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024 05:00 | By
Workers at a donkey slaughter centre in Rift Valley. PHOTO/Print
Workers at a donkey slaughter centre in Rift Valley. PHOTO/Print

An alarm has been sounded over the theft and bush slaughter of donkeys for both skin and meat business.

Consequently, the government has been asked to address legal gaps that have been established as the factors enabling the illegal practice which is threatening the existence of donkeys and exposing the public to health risks.

A media training and consultative workshop organized by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in conjunction with Weltierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) from Germany held in Moyale town disclosed that about 10,000 donkey skins were exported to China last year despite a ban on the same by the government.

ANAW programme officer Dennis Bahati said that there is increased bush slaughter of donkeys in various parts of the country especially Kajiado, Nakuru, Kiambu and Naivasha purposely for their skin which is in high demand in China for its valuable ejiao, a cultural remedy.

Dr Bahati while hailing the government for revoking export licenses issued to four companies that operated donkey slaughterhouses in the country, called for formulation of policies to make an African Union Assembly moratorium adopted in February 2024.

During the extraordinary session, the heads of states and government in Addis Ababa, agreed to stop what was described as horrific donkey skin trade on the continent.

Dr Bahati told the forum which brought journalists working in Isiolo and Marsabit counties as well as the Moyale donkey welfare association that apart from decimating the donkey population the bush slaughter posed a health hazard as the inspected meat passing as beef meat finds its way to the supply chain.

The number of donkeys has been dwindling at an alarming rate reducing to slightly above half a million from a staggering figure of 1.8 million as captured during the 2009 national population and housing census.

The participants were in agreement that the abandonment of donkey carcasses in the bush was an environmental danger as they pollute water sources and expose nearby schools and homesteads to awful smells.

It is also feared that unless stopped, cross border movement and theft of these animals could easily compromise on the gains the government has made in taming the thorny menace of rustling of livestock in pastoralist areas.

The donkey is a resource that many households among pastoralist communities rely on for their livelihoods.

Ms Hawo Huka Gullied, the treasurer of the local donkey welfare association described the donkey as a very precious animal which local communities especially women depend on when fetching water, wood for cooking, food and goods for trade.

“It should not be forgotten that we live in areas where conventional mode of transport is limited so we rely on this animal to transport property when we migrate in search of water and pasture” she said adding that donkeys are used as human transport as well.

The theft and the black marketing of donkeys is emerging as a threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of households in the arid and semi-arid (ASALs) areas of the country, hence frustrating efforts being employed by the government to address issues of poverty.

ANAW director Josiah Ojwang said that the country has of late witnessed an influx of donkeys smuggling from neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Southern Sudan owing to its porous borders.

“Donkeys are still considered as food animals in Kenya and a such slaughtering is allowed by law which was enacted in 1999,” he pointed out and called for a reverse of the same in order to protect the endangered animals and to safeguard human health.

The director noted that the donkey was a difficult breeder animal due to its long gestation period of 13 months besides taking three years before coming on heat after calving.

According to the Moyale sub-county veterinary officer Hassan Nura, the menace of donkey smuggling into the country along the Kenya -Ethiopia border is rampant.

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