Humane Society International (HSI) is calling on Table Tennis Australia, the peak body for the sport, to end a sponsorship deal with a company promoting a cruel trade in donkey skins from Australia to China for traditional medicine.
As reported by ABC News this week, Table Tennis Australia announced a sponsorship deal with the Australian Donkey Industry Association in 2018, which outraged players and members of the sporting body who were concerned with the related animal welfare and humanitarian issues. Gelatin from donkey skins is used to produce ejiao, and the escalating demand for this dubious health fad is decimating donkey populations across the globe.
According to Table Tennis Australia, the Australian Donkey Industry Association "promotes the development of Australian donkey products, for which there is a burgeoning industry and significant demand internationally.”
Georgie Dolphin, HSI's Program Manager for Animal Welfare says, "HSI is deeply concerned that an Australian sporting body has signed a deal with a company looking to involve Australia in a trade that has horrible consequences for donkeys and the communities in developing countries that rely on them. In this day and age, it is unacceptable that Australian athletes are being warned not to speak out about animal welfare concerns, and we commend brave player Wade Townsend for talking publicly about why he and other members of Table Tennis Australia did not want to be associated with the ejiao industry.”
HSI has written to Table Tennis Australia, asking for the national sporting body to end its sponsorship deal with the Australian Donkey Industry Association and we are awaiting a response. We are also urging Australian companies to step up and take over the sponsorship to support our dedicated Australian athletes.
HSI's investigative report released last May named Australia as the 8th biggest importer of ejiao, with upwards of $4 million worth of the product entering the country last year. The industry also hopes to use Australia as a source country for donkeys having exhausted donkey supplies elsewhere in the world.
Up to 4 million donkeys are killed globally every year to produce ejiao, and HSI's investigation also revealed the deplorable conditions and distressing slaughter practices that donkeys face to supply the trade.
"The ejiao industry is behind a global donkey crisis which involves horrific animal cruelty and humanitarian injustices. It is not a sponsorship deal that table tennis players can be proud of, and Table Tennis Australia must listen to their calls and end the agreement immediately,” continued Ms Dolphin.
Chinese investors have been in discussions with Australia's Northern Territory government who are currently researching the feasibility of donkey farming using feral populations, and exporting their skins. If this plan was to go ahead, it would result in severe animal welfare implications for donkeys due to the behavioural issues faced when farmed and transported and is not the solution to curb feral donkey populations.
With no peer reviewed scientific evidence of any health benefits, ejiao is facing increasing scrutiny and stigma. This combined with the animal welfare consequences associated with the trade has prompted many retailers, including eBay, to remove the products from its site.
HSI is calling on the Northern Territory and Australian governments to rule out supplying live donkeys or their skins to China for ejiao.
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