When a team of animal welfare experts arranged a visit to a Chinese-run donkey abattoir they were met with scenes of horror. Donkeys were seen awaiting slaughter alongside dead donkeys being skinned, while others waited under the hot sun with no shade, breathing thick smoke from burning carcasses.
“What we found there was horrible as the donkeys were not given food and water when they arrived and they were held up to 48 hours before being slaughtered. This meant some of the donkeys died on the grounds,” says Thomas W. Kahema, director of the Tanzania Animal Welfare Society (TAWESO).
The abattoir, owned by Huacheng International and located around 6 kilometres from the national capital Dodoma, had been running for three months exporting donkey fillets to China and Turkey.
Funded by The Donkey Sanctuary, TAWESO organised a visit to talk to staff about animal welfare. While there, Thomas and his team also noted serious environmental concerns, including bones and organs being burnt in the open creating thick smoke, polluting the grounds and discharging effluent into the community.
“The company was licenced to slaughter up to 40 donkeys per day but they were actually slaughtering between 150 and 200 per day,” Thomas says. He added the resulting demand for live donkeys was having an impact in other parts of the country. “Middlemen have been buying the donkeys from people in various parts of Tanzania but there are many reports of thefts.”
Thomas said there had been reports that the abattoir paid up to US$200 (about £130) per donkey.
In response to what they saw, TAWESO wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries detailing their findings. A few days later, the abattoir was closed down by the National Environmental Management Council. Sadly, all the donkeys at the abattoir had been slaughtered but Tanzanian government officials have prevented more animals being taken there.
The closure was widely welcomed in the country and received coverage in the national media.
“We are so much grateful to see it closed at the moment as it was a horrible situation for the donkeys,” Thomas says.