The Donkey Sanctuary has welcomed advice from China's official National Health and Family Planning Commission that ejiao is "not worth buying."

The organisation has caused uproar in the country by suggesting the popular health product - which is made from millions of slaughtered donkeys every year - is "just boiled donkey skin", despite its many health claims.

Just boiled donkey skin

On a post on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) on Sunday, 18 February the Commission, which operates the official 12320 medical advice and information hotline, tweeted that the product is “..not a good source of protein” and that its health claims were at best overstated.

The Donkey Sanctuary has been campaigning for a halt to the global trade in donkey skins, which utilises around four million donkey skins every year.

It is estimated that as many as 2.2 million skins are imported to China from Africa, South America and parts of Asia every year. Over the past two years, an escalating demand for skins to make the product has also resulted in poaching and theft of donkeys from individuals and communities that depend on them, with national donkey populations being halved in some countries.

Social media storm

Many social media users in China shared the Commission’s original posts, others of which said that medical claims or benefits for traditional remedies made from sea cucumber and bird’s nests were also overstated or unverified.

However within a few hours the Weibo feeds for all of the Commission’s tweets (@全国卫生12320) had mysteriously gone offline and remain offline now.

Alex Mayers is the head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary and has been working at ground-level with partners around the globe to expose the donkey skin trade to protect donkeys and the communities that rely on them.

Destroying livelihoods

He says: “A huge number of medical claims are made for ejiao, and despite its high price, it’s an extremely sought-after and popular product. This advice from the Commission has resulted in a lot of discussion on social media in China, both about the claims and benefits of the product and also about it having seemingly been deleted.

“Whether there are any benefits from taking ejiao or not, our primary concern remains that the trade in skins is both inhumane and unsustainable. However if a product is not worth buying then it can’t be worth the price of destroying someone’s livelihood, and the trade is responsible for that every single time a donkey is stolen and slaughtered which itself is every single day.”