International animal welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary and Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys have reacted with dismay to a court decision in Kenya which will allow the resumption of donkey slaughter for their skins.

In February 2020 the Kenyan Government announced a ban on the killing of donkeys for their skins, but after slaughterhouses demanded a review, and following a year-long battle in the courts, the ban was lifted on Wednesday (5 May 2021).

Prior to the ban, thousands of donkeys were being slaughtered every year for their skins at the Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Naivasha and in Kenya’s other three donkey slaughterhouses. The skins were then exported to make ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine.

The court decision follows months of pleas and protests from donkey-owning communities who have had donkeys stolen, or been coerced to sell them, to fuel the trade. Their livelihoods have suffered as a result.

The Association of Donkey Owners in Kenya (ADOK), a membership of 65,000 who account for more than 100,000 donkeys, was formed in 2019 with support from Brooke East Africa to give the donkey owning community in Kenya a collective voice. In February 2020 the government responded to the community demands and a ban on donkey slaughter was announced.

In May 2020, Star Brilliant sued the government, through the Attorney General and Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary - Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative, seeking to quash the legal notice.

The owners claimed it violated the worker rights and that the government should have consulted and considered the views of slaughterhouses before putting the ban in place. The Attorney General and Ministry of Livestock again came forward to defend their decision.

ADOK, filed an Interested Party Application in the case, highlighting the negative impact that donkey slaughter has on them.

Ian Cawsey, Director of Advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “We were very disappointed that the Kenyan court overturned the decision of their government to end donkey slaughter. We hope the government will remain resolved to finding a way to deliver their decision.

“Donkeys slaughtered for their skin is an unnecessary and unsustainable trade that has bad outcomes for donkeys and the communities they are an integral part of. We will continue to support local donkey owners so donkeys in Kenya are protected and safe from the skin trade.”

Dr Raphael Kinoti, Regional Director at Brooke East Africa said: “This is a massive blow for donkeys, animal welfare, and especially for the hardworking people who rely on donkeys to earn a living and provide for their families. This trade has had a horrific impact on them, with donkeys being stolen and sold to these slaughterhouses.

“The ban on donkey slaughter, announced in February, was a direct response to the pleas of donkey owning communities, and we’re disappointed that the court has found in favour of slaughterhouses.”

Donkey-owning communities have already started protesting across the country, and will now regroup to agree actions they will take to tackle the issue following this ruling. Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary will continue to campaign, even harder now, with local donkey owner groups, for the ban.


For interviews, images and information please contact The Donkey Sanctuary press office on 01395 573124 or 07970 927778 (including out of hours) or send an email.

Notes to Editors

The Donkey Sanctuary is the world's largest equine welfare charity. Our vision is a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering and their contribution to humanity is fully valued. We run 10 sanctuaries around the UK and Europe, giving lifelong care to more than 7,000 donkeys and mules. Our hospital treats sick donkeys and trains vets both nationwide and worldwide. Our donkey-facilitated learning programme helps vulnerable children and adults develop life skills by connecting with donkeys on an emotional and physical level. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation, and those used in the production of meat and skin.

Please note that the name ‘The Donkey Sanctuary’ should not be abbreviated to ‘Donkey Sanctuary’, and the word ‘The’ should always appear with a capital ‘T’ as above.