Overturning of slaughter ban a “massive blow” for Kenya’s donkeys

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The Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Kenya.
The Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Kenya. © Brooke

A ban on the killing of donkeys for their skins has been overturned by a Kenyan court, with advocates describing it as a “massive blow”.

International animal welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary and Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys have reacted with dismay to the court decision in Kenya which will allow the resumption of donkey slaughter for their skins.

In February 2020 the Kenyan Government announced a ban on the killing of donkeys for their skins, but after slaughterhouses demanded a review, and following a year-long battle in the courts, the ban was lifted on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

Before the ban, thousands of donkeys were being slaughtered every year for their skins at the Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Naivasha and in Kenya’s other three donkey slaughterhouses. The skins were then exported to make ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine.

The court decision follows months of pleas and protests from donkey-owning communities who have had donkeys stolen, or been coerced to sell them, to fuel the trade. Their livelihoods have suffered as a result.

The Association of Donkey Owners in Kenya (ADOK), a membership of 65,000 who account for more than 100,000 donkeys, was formed in 2019 with support from Brooke East Africa to give the donkey owning community in Kenya a collective voice. In February 2020 the government responded to the community demands and a ban on donkey slaughter was announced.

In May 2020, Star Brilliant sued the Kenyan government over the ban on donkey slaughter.
In May 2020, Star Brilliant sued the Kenyan government over the ban on donkey slaughter. © Brooke

In May 2020, Star Brilliant sued the government, through the Attorney General and Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary – Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative, seeking to quash the legal notice.

The owners claimed it violated the worker rights and that the government should have consulted and considered the views of slaughterhouses before putting the ban in place. The Attorney General and Ministry of Livestock again came forward to defend their decision.

Kenya's agriculture minister Peter Munya listens to the concerns of a donkey owner.
Kenya’s agriculture minister Peter Munya listens to the concerns of a donkey owner. © Brooke

ADOK filed an Interested Party Application in the case, highlighting the negative impact that donkey slaughter has on them.

Ian Cawsey, The Donkey Sanctuary’s advocacy director said slaughtering donkeys for their skin is “an unnecessary and unsustainable trade that has bad outcomes for donkeys and the communities they are an integral part of”.

“We will continue to support local donkey owners so donkeys in Kenya are protected and safe from the skin trade.”

Brooke East Africa Regional Director Dr Raphael Kinoti said the court decision was “a massive blow for donkeys, animal welfare, and especially for the hardworking people who rely on donkeys to earn a living and provide for their families”.

Donkeys in pens at the Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Kenya.
Donkeys in pens at the Star Brilliant slaughterhouse in Kenya. © The Donkey Sanctuary

“This trade has had a horrific impact on them, with donkeys being stolen and sold to these slaughterhouses. The ban on donkey slaughter was a direct response to the pleas of donkey-owning communities, and we’re disappointed that the court has found in favour of slaughterhouses.”

Donkey-owning communities have already started protesting across the country and will now regroup to agree on actions they will take to tackle the issue following this ruling. Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary will continue to campaign for the ban with local donkey owner groups.

Donkey-owning communities are protesting across Kenya over the court decision to allow the resumption of donkey slaughter for their skins.
Donkey-owning communities are protesting across Kenya over the court decision to allow the resumption of donkey slaughter for their skins. © Brooke

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