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Working worldwide - Global issues

Tracking emerging themes

News in brief

We carefully monitor the welfare issues affecting donkeys on a global level, and we move quickly to resolve them. Donkeys are working in some of the toughest conditions you can imagine such as brick kilns and building sites. Wild populations are under threat. Donkeys are still exploited in entertainment and most recently we’ve helped exposed how they are being farmed for their skins. We are concerned about every issue that means a donkey suffers.

Under The Skin

Right now, millions of donkeys from Asia, Africa and South America are at risk of being stolen and slaughtered for their skins – the gelatin in the hide being a key ingredient in the prized traditional Chinese medicine called ejiao (e-gee-yow).

A new report by The Donkey Sanctuary reveals the shocking scale of this global demand for donkey skins – a demand that is unsustainable, whilst simultaneously causing mass-scale suffering to donkeys and risking the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.

Read here about the serious issues being faced and act now to add your voice to our campaign and help us curb this trade.

Global demand for meat and skins

Research by The Donkey Sanctuary is continuing to reveal the staggering scale and demand for donkey meat and skins, and its threat to the global donkey populations and their welfare. In Italy alone almost 6,000 donkeys are now farmed for their milk, but this is dwarfed by the numbers in China, where millions are farmed for their skins to produce a medicinal gelatin (ejiao) that is traded as traditional Chinese medicine.

Over 2,000 years ago, this medicine was a preserve worthy of Emperors, seen to promote good health, long life and fertility. In modern days it is more promoted as a skin care product that preserves youth and beauty and this has resulted in demand far outstripping supply.


A population of 69,000 donkeys and mules exists within reach of our Indian projects and we currently help over 32,000 each year with your support. The Donkey Sanctuary provides vital veterinary care and community training to make life better for working donkeys and mules in India.

Equine trading in Barabanki Fair

Each year in October, about a week before the full moon lights up the night sky, the town of Dewa Sharif in eastern Uttar Pradesh comes alive with the sights and sounds of one of north India’s largest equine fairs.

The Barabanki Fair, or the Dewa Mela as it’s also known, has been taking place annually for over a century to commemorate the Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah. Hundreds of traders and thousands of donkeys, mules and horses descend upon the fair grounds for a week of hectic trading, and an entire local economy springs up around them.

The braying of mules and donkeys mixes with the honks of vehicles weaving their way around animals, cries of hawkers selling street food, chai or equine accessories, the piercing music of snake charmers, young children selling bales of fresh green fodder and the local mosque’s call to prayer in the evenings.