For the first time, The Donkey Sanctuary presented members of the European Parliament with evidence of the growing donkey skin trade at a meeting in Strasbourg last week.

Group photo at EU Intergroup meeting Strasbourg

In a presentation to the EU Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals at the European Parliament, the world’s largest equine charity highlighted the harrowing consequences of the trade on donkey populations.

The Intergroup meeting was scheduled to discuss the welfare of all equines – donkeys, mules and horses. It was chaired by Jacqueline Foster, MEP, and featured speakers from international welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare and Brooke. Fourteen MEPs attended the meeting along with other organisations.

Ian Cawsey, director of advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: "It was clear that members of the European Parliament were shocked by the welfare of donkeys caught up in the rapidly growing trade as well as the economic consequences for donkey-dependent communities. The growing demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine made from donkey skins, means that huge numbers of donkeys continue to be stolen and slaughtered leaving  vulnerable communities without the donkeys they need for their livelihoods and independence.”

Ian Cawsey and Roly Owers
Ian Cawsey (left), director of advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary with Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare.
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During his presentation to the Intergroup, Ian said: “We want a halt to this trade until there is a humane and sustainable production method, which could include lab-grown collagen.”

After the meeting, Ian said: “The MEPs had little knowledge of this issue and the Intergroup is keen to help in any way it can. Research by The Donkey Sanctuary has found that this trade in donkey skins is, in part, facilitated by companies based within the EU. There are steps that can be taken to address this, as well as using the influence they may have to move producers to a humane and sustainable alternative.”

On a positive note, Ian said: “It was heartening to hear how seriously the EU Intergroup took the issue and their willingness to help. It is another step on the long road to securing a world where all donkeys are safeguarded and cared for in a humane way.”

There was more good news from Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, who gave a presentation on major progress made by a sub-group of the EU platform on two key guides for good animal welfare practice - one for horses, a second for donkeys. He highlighted how close the EU is to adopting these guidelines as the European standard for responsible equine ownership throughout member countries.