From Africa to South America: Brazil joins horror donkey skin trade

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Brazil is among the first countries outside Africa to join the horrific donkey skin industry, with traders capturing donkeys living in the wild to “harvest” them for their skins for the Chinese market.

Donkey skins are boiled and the gelatin extracted to produce ejiao, an increasingly popular traditional Chinese medicine. It is hailed as a miracle elixir in China and is heavily marketed as a cure for everything from anaemia to impotence despite no scientific evidence of any health benefits.  Earlier this year China’s National Health & Family Planning Commission posted on its official Weibo site a blog entry titled ‘Ejiao is not worth buying …‘ stating that ‘ejiao is simply boiled donkey skin’.  This sparked a major social media frenzy. They were later required to retract their statement.

Until now, most reports about the welfare concerns and unsustainability of this trade have come out of Africa, where working donkeys are being stolen and slaughtered for their skins.

In Brazil, pressure from donkey advocacy groups has led to the closure of a specific holding facility in Itapetinga, a town in Bahia state, where “shocking footage” showed “horrendous conditions” for animals, British-based charity The Donkey Sanctuary and its partners in the National Donkey Taskforce said.

Donkeys awaiting slaughter at a holding compound in Itapetinga, Brazil in September 2018, which has since been closed down. 
Donkeys awaiting slaughter at a holding compound in Itapetinga, Brazil in September 2018, which has since been closed down. © Frente Nacional de Defesa dos Jumentos

“When the team visited the compound in Itapetinga, now known locally as ‘the donkey graveyard’, the only evidence of donkeys being there was bones and dung in the scrubland and some putrid-smelling burial mounds near the entrance, which are patrolled by wild dogs and vultures.

“This is the first time we’ve seen evidence of the skin trade’s impact on donkeys outside Africa. It is now a truly global crisis,” the charity said.

“The animals are torn from their natural habitat and transported by road over huge distances to giant pens. They’re held there without food or water for days while they await slaughter.”

The charity said it was so shocked by the footage that it sent an emergency team to investigate other slaughterhouses in Bahia state, including a veterinarian and The Donkey Sanctuary’s rapid response and campaigns manager Simon Pope to Brazil. There, they met with government officials and legal experts.

“What I saw happening to donkeys is inhumane and sickening,” Pope said. “We believe the Bahia state abattoirs are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Our suspicions that slaughterhouses have supply pens where starving, scared donkeys are awaiting their fate has now been proved.”

There have been several protests against the skin trade in Brazilian cities, with people taking to the streets with banners to help raise awareness of the situation. Another is being held on November 25.
There have been several protests against the skin trade in Brazilian cities, with people taking to the streets with banners to help raise awareness of the situation. Another is being held on November 25.

The team located a new abattoir that claims to kill up to 250 donkeys a day, which joins two others in the Bahia state, Amargosa and Simoes Filho. All three are licensed to export meat and skin.

A local truck driver said he delivers up to 50 donkeys a day, following 1000km journeys over three days from the Pernambuco state. He claims that some donkeys die in transit or arrive lame.

Animal welfare supporters in Brazil are also voicing their outrage, and protests against the inhumane treatment and slaughter of donkeys are being held in 14 states on November 25.

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling for an immediate suspension of the trade in Brazil until it can be shown to be both humane and sustainable.

» More on the Brazilian donkey trade

4 thoughts on “From Africa to South America: Brazil joins horror donkey skin trade

  • November 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm
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    Omg when this all stop. Someone shot these idiots. Or hang them.

    Reply
  • November 5, 2018 at 6:43 am
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    Until world governments apply pressure to China , this will continue. That country has no animal welfare laws, has a disgusting barbaric dog meat trade and no compassion for anything alive. They do not care less what the West thinks of them . They just walk in and plunder. No trade deals thank you.

    Reply
  • November 5, 2018 at 9:13 am
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    this is so horrible i have 2 rescue donkeys and the thought of this breaks my heart donkeys are such loving animals way more loving then humans they don’t kill any one for there skin

    Reply
  • November 6, 2018 at 7:40 am
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    Horrific
    Is their no limit to the Chinese demands on our natural world?

    Reply

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