Slaughtering donkeys for their skin will resume in Kenya

The killing of donkeys for their skin will resume in Kenya after the courts lifted a ban on donkey slaughter on Wednesday, 5 May.

It comes over a year-long battle in the courts and a statement from international animal welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary and Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, said they are “dismayed” by the decision.  

In February 2020, the Kenyan Government announced a ban on the killing of donkeys for their skins, but after slaughterhouses demanded a review.  

Prior to 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 Kenyan donkey-owning community a collective voice.

In February 2020, the government responded to the community demands and a ban on donkey slaughter was announced.  

Three months later, 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 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 came forward to defend their decision.  

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

‘An unnecessary and unsustainable trade’

Ian Cawsey, director of advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “We were very disappointed that the Kenyan court overturned the decision of their government to end donkey slaughter. We hope the government will remain resolved to finding a way to deliver their decision. 

“Donkeys slaughtered 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.” 

Dr Raphael Kinoti, regional director at Brooke East Africa, said: “This is 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.

“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.” 

The statement added that donkey–owning communities have already started protesting across the country and will now regroup to agree actions they will take to tackle the issue following this ruling.

“Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary will continue to campaign, even harder now, with local donkey owner groups for the ban,” it said.