The Donkey Sanctuary and The University of Milan have presented new guidelines for donkey milk farming to MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The publication of Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys: Good Animal Management Practices for Donkey Milk Production concludes a two-year research project looking at welfare, legislation and safety issues of milk farming. The project was led by Dr Faith Burden, Director of Research and Operational Support at The Donkey Sanctuary, alongside Dr Michela Minero and Dr Francesca Dai of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at The University of Milan.

Dr Burden said: “Donkey milk farming is a new industry and one that is largely unregulated around the world. While our charity does not encourage donkey milk farming, we know the trade exists and is growing, so we expect only the highest welfare principals to be adhered to by those in the industry to protect the donkeys.

"Through our extensive research with The University of Milan focusing on donkey milk farming in Italy, we know that very little guidance existed, therefore we have now contributed to these stakeholder-led guidelines that can help ensure high levels of donkey welfare are a priority for the industry.

"Now both the novice and experienced donkey milk farmer can ensure high welfare standards for their donkeys, and governments and potential regulators can begin to implement the guidelines to lead to change across the world."

Dr Minero, who presented the new guidelines to 20 MEPs from the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals on 26 October said: “There is a real need for guidelines for dairy donkeys and we will work together with stakeholders on their implementation to make sure they are effective and can improve the welfare of donkeys.”

Donkey milk farming is a growing sector, especially in parts of continental Europe where donkey milk is used as a cow milk substitute for allergic infants and is prized as a cosmetic ingredient.

While some donkeys involved in the rapidly expanding dairy industry are well looked after, The Donkey Sanctuary wants to champion and ensure good donkey welfare for all.

The publication of these new guidelines is designed to provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for sustainable donkey milk production and recommend practical solutions for their implementation. The guidelines will be available in the following languages: English, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, French, Spanish and Portuguese (LA).

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