International animal welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary and Brooke were given a seal of approval when they took their donkey skin trade campaigns to the Queen Sofia Foundation in Madrid, Spain, last month.

Alongside a group of Spanish NGOs, the teams met Her Majesty Queen Sofia to talk about their work: including The Donkey Sanctuary’s recent Under the Skin Update report, and Brooke’s The Donkey Skins Trade: Policy brief on the worldwide impact.

Valentina Riva, Advocacy Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Queen Sofia and her team were already well informed about the global skin trade and the work of The Donkey Sanctuary. Her Majesty was particularly interested to learn about The Donkey Sanctuary’s engagement with the ejiao [traditional Chinese medicine made from donkey-derived gelatin] industry. I was able to brief Queen Sofia on the charity’s recent trips to China to talk with industry leaders, veterinary professionals and government bodies.” 

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling for the ejiao industry to cut links with the global skin trade and move towards more sustainable sources of raw materials provided by cellular agriculture such as the use of artificially grown donkey-derived collagen.

Brooke is working closely with communities affected by the trade to help them protect themselves by building shelters for their animals and lobbying local authorities. The team also provided an update on a campaign with an objective to ban the global trade on donkey skins and the longer-term goal of tackling the demand side of the trade.

Sofia served as Queen of Spain between 1975 and 2014; in 1977 she started the foundation, which is committed to projects promoting progress, welfare and justice for all.

Queen Sofia first learnt about the skin trade from her daughter, Infanta Cristina, who was given a leaflet about it while travelling in Kenya. She passed this onto her mum knowing her love of donkeys – who are apparently among Queen Sofia’s favourite animals.

The supply of donkey skins cannot meet demand in China, which needs around 4.8 million hides per-year for ejiao production so traders, mainly in Africa, Asia and South America, are exporting additional skins to China.

Since 2007, donkey populations have declined by 28% in Brazil, by 37% in Botswana and by 53% in Kyrgyzstan. In Kenya, research has predicted that if the trend of slow population growth and increasing slaughter continues, donkeys in Kenya could be wiped out by 2023.

The collapse of these donkey populations will have a hugely damaging impact on the livelihoods of an estimated 500 million people in some of the world’s poorest communities that the animals support.

Donkeys transport goods to market, carry water and wood, provide access to education and are a vital source of income for vulnerable communities, particularly women.

Learn more about the donkey skin trade