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Victory! Africa-wide ban on donkey skin trade. But what does it mean for Asia?

In a landmark decision, the African Heads of State have taken a significant step towards protecting the world's donkeys by banning their slaughter for the skin trade. The collagen from their skin produces ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine. Leading the charge in this crucial initiative is The Donkey Sanctuary, who we proudly count as a Core Member of the Asia for Animals Coalition. In this blog post, we delve into the global impact of this monumental decision, with a spotlight on the connections that tie the demand for donkey skins to Asia.


1. Global Impact and Asian Demand:

Recent figures released by The Donkey Sanctuary unveil a staggering reality – 5.9 million donkeys are slaughtered annually worldwide for ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy. The demand from Chinese Traditional Medicine has led to severe consequences for other Asian countries, which are losing their donkeys to this insidious trade.

2. Landmark Donkey Sanctuary Report a Key Advocacy Instrument:

The Donkey Sanctuary, one of the central groups exerting influence on this issue, recently released a landmark report, which delves into the profound impact that the donkey skin trade has on donkeys across the globe and the communities that depend on them. It also sheds light on the often overlooked but devastating consequences of the donkey skin trade, including exploitation, cruelty, and population decline.

“...the content of this report is a snapshot of the kind of work we've been doing to draw the attention of a diverse stakeholder group to the donkey skin trade. We have researched and formed partnerships that go beyond the obvious cruelty and welfare issues for donkeys. This includes the biosecurity risks to humans and animals, links to other criminal activities including the illegal wildlife trade and also the damage the trade is doing to the people who depend on donkeys for their livelihoods. 

These messages have been taken to the member states of the AU and various membership bodies to lobby for action from within the source countries.  All of this work, along with the efforts of our partners has resulted in the recent AU win for the campaign. “

  • Siân Edwards, Head of Campaigns, The Donkey Sanctuary

3. Asian Perspectives on Donkey Welfare:

From the report: “The relentless demand for donkey skins, used in the production of ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy, drives a global trade that is opportunistic, brutal and unsustainable. China’s donkey herd has diminished from 11 million in 1992 to just under two million according to most recent data. [...] the ejiao industry’s efforts to intensively farm donkeys have failed to address demand and so the industry meets the ever-increasing shortfall by sourcing skins, often illegally, through a global trade.”

4. Implementation Challenges and Global Collaboration:

As the ban is set to roll out across African Union member countries, challenges in implementation loom large. However, The Donkey Sanctuary stands ready to face these challenges head-on. Their commitment to working closely with partners across Africa signifies a united front in ensuring the success of this transformative ban, which will have ultimate consequences on the Asian demand for ejiao.

Image courtesy of The Donkey Sanctuary. Explore a bigger version here.

5. How your NGO can participate:

When the Chinese market can no longer fulfill the demand from within African countries, and other source countries, the trade will no doubt turn elsewhere to replace the required volume of Donkeys. This presents an opportunity for advocates to mobilize and speak up to their national representatives to communicate the grave animal and human concerns surrounding this issue. NGOs are advised to consider the recommendations beginning at page 30 in the report. Furthermore, if your organization would like to connect with the appropriate colleagues at Donkey Sanctuary to partner on such work, please reach out to us at so that we may make the connections.

In Summary

In conclusion, the recent African Union ban on donkey slaughter for skins is a significant step in the right direction in response to an animal welfare and humanitarian crisis. Because of the issue’s interlinkages with a variety of considerations, sincere adoption of the ban will help many countries better progress towards a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

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