A coffle of donkeys recently rescued by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has put into sharp focus the possible reemergence of a cruel trade in donkey skins.
A number of trucks transporting around 100 donkeys near Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal were intercepted by the Mooi River SPCA, who, with the help of local police, stopped the trucks until the NSPCA arrived.
Young foals and old donkeys aboard the trucks were destined for the donkey skin trade, which first emerged in South Africa 2016.
A donkey being fed by an NSPCA inspector. Picture: Facebook
Since then, an entire underground trade has been discovered, with the skins destined for China’s traditional medicine markets.
Known as “ejiao”, donkey skins contain gelatine, which is alleged to have anti-ageing properties, provides a cure for insomnia, and improves blood circulation, explained NSPCA spokeswoman Keshvi Nair.
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Nair explained that this gelatine is turned into tablets, tonics and even a sweet syrup, by soaking and stewing the skins.
She revealed South Africa’s donkeys were being carted to the Upper Tugela region, where they are taken into Lesotho to be slaughtered.
An NSPCA inspector with the rescued donkeys. Picture: Facebook
Nair said farms also slaughter donkeys for the skin trade.
South Africa is also not the only one affected by a new insatiable appetite for donkey-infused gelatine – Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia are battling to curb the trade as well.
In 2017, Botswana’s government suspended export licences for donkeys and byproducts such as meat and hides.
“If there were stricter laws in South Africa regarding the export of donkeys, this trade wouldn’t be able to thrive in our country, and our donkeys would be safer,” Nair said.
The NSPCA said it had observed abject cruelty in the way donkeys within the trade are handled.
A rescued donkey feasts on grass. Picture: Facebook
Nair said they are hit, pushed, kicked and shoved to move the stubborn asses to where they want them to go.
There is also cruelty in the way animals are transported, with trucks and trailers often overcrowded.
“Sometimes they are restrained with tight ropes so they cannot move, the transport is often incorrect so the animals sometimes fall and cannot get back up, or they get trampled to death.”
There is also a lack of food and water provided for the donkeys, who often endure lengthy journeys to be slaughtered.
Donkeys being kept on farms or properties also often lack proper food, water, shelter or veterinary attention, Nair continued.
“These animals are almost always found with untreated wounds and external parasite infestations.”
The fate that awaits the donkeys is also not done properly, with them mostly being bludgeoned to death before being skinned alive.
“Otherwise, they are slaughtered mercilessly without being pre-stunned… and the animal is subjected to a slow and painful death.”
To help quell the trade, Nair said the NSPCA has called on the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries to intervene, and to put in place measures to stop the export of donkeys, donkey skins and products from South Africa.
If you would like to help the NSPCA look after the rescued donkeys, click here.
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