Millions of donkeys are slaughtered each year to produce a miracle drug of which China simply cannot get enough.
Having already decimated its own donkey population to produce ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy made from gelatin extracted from donkey hides, China has begun importing animals from developing countries. As more and more Chinese slaughterhouses spring up in Africa, donkeys are disappearing at an alarming rate, according to The New York Times.
The traditional Chinese medicine ejiao is used to treat anemia, acne, low energy, low libido, irregular menstruation, and other ailments. This remedy can also reportedly prevent cancer, nourish your yin, and help you sleep better. While these claims are not backed by legitimate clinical evidence, ejiao is becoming increasingly popular among China’s growing middle class. As demand rises, more pressure is put on the global donkey population, the Guardian introduced.
As many as 1.8 million donkey skins are traded each year to produce ejiao, but the demand is estimated to be anywhere from four to ten million donkey hides a year, the Donkey Sanctuary, a U.K.-based charity, revealed in a detailed report published early last year.
The donkey trade exploded in parts of Africa in 2016, and now local farmers are being forced to sell their donkeys to slaughterhouses or risk having them stolen.
Fourteen African countries, including Ethiopia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Tanzania, have prohibited the export of donkey hides, but theft and smuggling remains a persistent problem, especially in Kenya, where the trade is legal, Quartz reported in 2017.
In one village, residents lost nearly 500 donkeys in one year, a loss which still has some of the local residents struggling, TheNYT reports. For many people, donkeys are an important mode of transportation essential for business and day-to-day life. For a Mr. Njeru, the loss of his donkeys reduced his daily income from $30 to $5.
Mike Baker, the Chief Executive of the Donkey Sanctuary, told of a situation in which all 24 of a Tanzanian village’s donkeys were stolen, butchered, and skinned. Such occurrences are becoming increasingly common in Tanzania.
In the summer of 2017, more than one thousand theft victims petitioned the Kenyan government to intervene to prevent destructive criminal activities, but there has been no response because Kenya benefits from the booming donkey trade. There are certain regulations meant to improve the situation, but they are loosely enforced.
Chinese ejiao once sold for $9 per pound, but now it sells for more than $400 per pound. Observers suggest that the donkey trade shows no signs of slowing despite increased international attention on this particular global issue.
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