The commercial slaughter of donkeys in Kenya was on 25th February 2020, halted since being in operation from the year 2012.
The Commercial Slaughter of Donkeys Legalized
Kenya legalized and licensed donkey slaughterhouses to export donkey meat and skin in 2012. Before the legalization of donkey meat in 2012, sellers at liked meat eateries would ward off any claims that they were selling the commodity. Farmers in different regions of Kenya would, however, wake up to find their donkeys missing. Donkey skeletons would later be found hidden behind a bush with their steaks having been taken to unmarked outlets.
The Kenya Meat Control Amendment Act of 2012, however, established that meat from donkeys and horses was listed as acceptable for human consumption even though some communities in Kenya see it as a taboo to eat donkey meat.
Abattoirs for the commercial Slaughter of Donkeys
The Kenyan government assisted in the development of abattoirs in Naivasha and Mogotio towns. The two towns each belonging to a different county, namely Nakuru and Baringo housed slaughterhouses for donkey meat packaging and export.
The Baringo abattoir constructed at the cost of Ksh 350 million ($ 3.5 million) could process about 1000 donkeys a day. The Naivasha abattoir, on the other hand, could only handle about 150 donkeys a day.
The Comercial Slaughter of Donkeys decrease Population
Buying of donkeys for sale to abattoirs increased tremendously in areas such a Naivasha, Kajiado and Turkana In Kenya. The increasing demand by countries such as China for donkey meat, however, put donkey populations under serious threat.
According to government data, Kenya had about 1.8 million donkeys a decade ago. The donkey population, however, stands at 1.2 million in 2020. This considerable decrease was mainly attributed to numerous traders doing anything to acquire donkeys for sale to abattoirs for profit.
Price Increase for Donkeys
From 2012 to 2016, the four licensed abattoirs slaughtered a total of 301,977 donkeys, a report revealed. A single trader typically brought as many as 100 donkeys to a slaughterhouse for sale. This mainly happened since the selling of donkeys was now more profitable.
Before the Kenyan government-licensed abattoirs to slaughter and export donkey meat, a single donkey could go for Ksh 6000 ($60). With the licensing of slaughterhouses came a rise in price to Ksh 20,000 ($ 200) for a donkey.
The Commercial Slaughter of Donkeys as a Disadvantage
The licensing of donkey slaughterhouse in Kenya was at first seen as an opportunity to create job opportunities. It could have as well increased the commercial value of donkeys. However, a government official in a statement he made said that the policy allowing for the slaughtering of donkeys for meat was not well thought out.
The Cabinet Secretary Mr. Peter Munya also added that the benefits brought by the traditional work done by donkeys formerly exceeded any benefits brought from slaughtering and eating their meat.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Cooperatives in Kenya also stated that the slaughter of donkeys needed to stop. The rising cases of theft of donkeys, as well as the impact on the families that rely on them, led the ministry to make this conclusion.
Theft of Donkeys
The thefts of donkeys were said to be high because traders were now chasing profits. In a report made in 2016, it revealed that 3 million donkeys were sourced from outside China and Vietnam. Hired gangs steal donkeys and smuggle them into China to make ejia. Ejia is a gelatin-based traditional drug. This drug the Chinese believed has medicinal attributes against insomnia, cancer, and clogged blood vessels.
Impact on Donkey owners
Additionally, many people living in rural areas who use the donkeys to fetch water and firewood were suffering due to the donkey thefts. With the dwindling numbers of the donkeys additionally, locals worried that workload would increase for them. Donkey owners held protests seeking closure of abattoirs due to their suffering.
The Cabinet Secretary Mr. Peter Munya hence revoked licenses to slaughter donkeys. Furthermore, he stated that the abattoirs would renovate their donkey slaughterhouses. The slaughterhouses would handle chickens, cows, and sheep within 60 days.