Agriculture CS Peter Munya has ordered donkey slaughterhouses to be shut down as concerns rise over the theft of the animals by gangs seeking their skin for use in Chinese medicines.
China use donkey skin in a medicine.They use a gelatin called ejiao made from boiling donkey skin and use it in a traditional medicine believed to stop ageing and boost libido.
Kenya has four licensed donkey abattoirs which slaughter around 1,000 donkeys a day, according to government data.
But growing Chinese demand for ejiao has led to a black market with gangs hired by skin-smuggling networks to steal donkeys, inciting anger in communities who depend on the animals for livelihoods, farming or transport.
“We want to stop that criminality. We want to stop that brutality,” Munya told reporters on Monday after meeting protesting donkey owners in Nairobi.
“(We want) to restore the donkey to its rightful place in our society – that of supporting livelihoods and providing crucial transport that is not easy to get, especially for the lower echelons of our society.”
If the trade continued, donkey populations would be decimated, he said, adding this would hit the country’s economy. The slaughterhouses have been ordered to close within a month.
More than 300,000 donkeys have been slaughtered for skin and meat export in less than three years, according to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
More than 4,000 were reported stolen over the same period from April 2016 to December 2018, KALRO said in a report in June last year.
The report warned the animals were being slaughtered at a rate five times higher than their population was growing, which could wipe out Kenya’s donkey population by as early as 2023.