The Donkey Sanctuary, which is leading the efforts to draw worldwide attention to the trade in donkey skins for the use in traditional Chinese remedies, is in Ghana with Ghana SPCA to urge law enforcement bodies to immediately enforce the ban on the slaughter and export of donkey skins that was passed at the beginning of the year.
On 17 January 2017 the Ministry of Food and Agriculture authorised a ban on the slaughter and export of donkey skins from Ghana. Worrying evidence suggests that the law is not being enforced, even though the Veterinary Services Directorate has publicly said: “The Veterinary Services Directorate has observed with alarm, a sharp increase in the number of donkeys being slaughtered on a daily basis especially in the northern parts of the country. At this rate, the population is likely to be depleted within two to three years.”
They continued: “The Veterinary Services Directorate has therefore decided to ban with immediate effect, the indiscriminate slaughter of donkeys and the export of their skins. All Regional Veterinary Officers are to ensure that this directive is strictly complied with. Anybody caught in defying this directive will be strictly dealt with.”
Both The Donkey Sanctuary and Ghana SPCA are in strong agreement that if this law is not upheld then the welfare of donkeys and Ghana’s poorest citizens who rely on donkeys for farming activities and the transportation of goods (especially in rural areas) are going to be affected in a catastrophic way.
Alex Mayers, head of programmes, at The Donkey Sanctuary, who is in Ghana says: “From evidence we have seen in recent days, donkeys are being slaughtered on a huge scale in northern Ghana for their skins. We have seen horrific evidence that the welfare of donkeys is compromised at all stages in the trade including transport, holding and slaughter.
"With only an estimated 14,500 donkeys in Ghana (according to FAOSTAT), even 100 donkeys being slaughtered per day would mean the entire population will be gone in six months. Imagine the devastation for the thousands of people who rely on donkeys for water, ploughing and rural transport.”
Alex continued: “The species cannot be farmed at scale and the unchecked free-flow of donkeys coming from neighbouring countries to fill the demand creates serious disease-transmission concerns and additional welfare challenges. We celebrate the forward-thinking, progressive and timely ban on the export of donkey skins, but more urgently needs to be done to prevent the loss of the species, the spread of disease, and the loss of everything donkeys represent for rural Ghanaians.”
There is an unsustainable rise in the slaughter of donkeys for the skin trade - largely due to growing demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine which uses the gelatin found in donkey hides for products alleged to offer anti-ageing properties.
With skin supply unable to meet demand, criminal traders, including some linked to wildlife trafficking, have resorted to stealing working donkeys, and are selling their skins for premium prices to the ejiao industry.
As well as sourcing, transporting and slaughtering these animals inhumanely, they are causing devastation to the people who depend on these domestic animals for their livelihood.