Donkeys are in crisis. These animals are being stolen from communities and brutally slaughtered for their skins to be shipped to China—all to feed the demand for a product named ‘ejiao’ that has no proven health benefits for consumers. Ejiao is made using the gelatin from donkey hides and is sold as a traditional Chinese medicine. As demand for the product increases, so too does the brutality of its global production line. Rural donkeys in Africa and Asia are often bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer, and the communities that relied on them are left without their sole means of survival.

A staggering 1.8 million skins were traded for the product in 2017 out of a global donkey population of only 44 million. Examining current trends, it is feared that 4–10 million donkeys may die each year, which would annihilate populations across the world. Together with our partners in China, we are surveying and educating consumers of ejiao about the heinous animal welfare, health and environmental consequences that surround the donkey skin trade. A number of countries have already made a stand against the trade in order to protect their donkey populations and the local communities who depend on them. We don’t want Australia to have any part in the industry. Chinese investors have approached Australia in search of more hides, with the Northern Territory government considering farming donkeys to cash in on the growing demand for ejiao.

Australia should not fuel demand for ejiao as it will lead to further welfare and humanitarian issues for donkeys and the communities that rely on them. Any limited supply from Australia would do nothing to reduce international demand for donkeys falling on developing nations. An Australian supply of donkey skins would simply undermine the bans already put in place by other nations. There are a host of animal welfare issues associated with ‘farming’ donkeys largely due to their hypersensitivity to stress. HSI is asking our Federal Agriculture Minister to rule out any trade in donkeys with China.

Ejiao – An investigative report for Humane Society International

Images: The Donkey Sanctuary (Header); Humane Society International (all other images)