New research into global donkey population trends has indicated that, following an explosion of trading in the animal's skins, the species could soon face population collapse.
British newspaper the Evening Standard reported on the study commissioned by animal welfare group The Donkey Sanctuary. It stated that the world population of the animals has declined precipitously in the last 25 years, and may face extinction in the foreseeable future.
Donkey skins are a key ingredient in animal gelatin, used as an ingredient called ejiao in traditional Chinese medicine. Among practitioners, ejiao is believed to have curative effects against dizziness, bleeding and insomnia, and often served dissolved in hot water or wine.
The study estimated that 4.8 million donkeys—more than 10 percent of the global population of 44 million—are killed every year to meet the demand for ejiao.
China's donkey population fell from 11 million in 1992 to 2.6 million in 2019, creating a market in other companies across the developing world.
"These dependable, hard working, sentient animals experience appalling suffering as a result of the activities of skin traders across the world. They are often transported long distances, without food,water or rest and they can be held for days in yards without shelter, before being slaughtered in often brutal conditions," The Donkey Sanctuary's CEO Mike Baker said in the report.
The slow reproductive cycle of the donkey has made it difficult to replenish their populations. A mother donkey carries her foal for a year, and the species has been known to encounter fertility issues in farm conditions.
Donkeys have long served as pack animals in many parts of the developing world, and owning one has often represented a path out of poverty for the most needy, providing an aid in physical labor for farming and transporting goods. But the demand for slaughtered animals has made acquiring them more difficult. The price of a donkey in Kenya, for instance, has more than doubled in the last three years.
Multiple African countries have already banned the export of donkey gelatin to China, including Niger, Uganda and Burkina Faso. Other nations, including Kenya and South Africa, are investing heavily in infrastructure and increasing donkey skin exports.
Chinese medicine has had detrimental effects on numerous other animal species. Rhinoceroses, which are killed for their horns, saw a tenfold increase in poaching deaths from 2008 to 2013 according to the South African Department of Animal Affairs. Meanwhile, China has begun efforts to adapt to the times, banning the import of tiger bones, which were previously a valuable medicinal ingredient, in 1993.
The treatment of horses transported overseas for slaughter and human consumption is at the heart of a two-day Federal Court trial which kicked off in Vancouver Wednesday. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition claims the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is not following rules that require horses to be segregated and given ample head room during long-haul overseas flight to Japan.
The coalition is seeking a judicial review of the agency's pre-flight inspection practices along with an order that would compel the CFIA to comply with the Health of Animals Regulations in approving horse transport.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that an animal protection organization has challenged the Canadian federal government over the transportation of animals in Canada," coalition lawyer Rebeka Breder said in her opening statement. "This case, in my submission, can have significant implications on future government decisions and the CFIA specifically, where their ongoing practice or policy is in direct contravention to existing law."
Compatibility of animals in question
The coalition filed the suit last year, claiming the inspection agency is following the guidelines of an interim policy introduced in 2017, instead of the sections of the Health of Animals Regulations which govern the transport of horses.
CFIA inspector-veterinarians have to ensure that all legal requirements are met before the horses can be shipped off to Asia. But Breder says the agency is side-stepping the regulations by claiming horses don't need to be segregated if they are "compatible" animals and that a horse's head or ears can touch the cargo netting above its head during air transport.
In its defence, the CFIA rejects the coalition's allegations. The agency also claims that new rules set to kick in next year make the case "moot." "The CFIA's role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported," the agency said in a filing with the court. "There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result, and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal.
No agency above the law
Breder said the animals in question are mostly large Belgian draft horses, and they require room. "We're not talking about little ponies," she said. "We're talking about big strong animals." She also claimed that while draft horses may appear compatible with each other before being shipped overseas, they may become incompatible under the stress of a long flight.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition is dedicated to banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Canada and the export of live horses for the same purpose. But Breder said their aim in the Federal Court case is limited to ensuring that the horses are transported humanely.
"No government agency is above the law," coalition executive director Sinnika Crosland said outside the courtroom. Crosland said her group doesn't want to see horses "crammed" into crates. "If they're going to ship them, they should put them singly in a crate," she said. "What they would need to do is make the crates high enough so the horses' heads aren't touching the ceiling, so they can comfortably raise their heads and not bang their heads or their ears up against the ceiling."
Source: CBC News
The conditions for breeding and slaughtering horses in Uruguay, Argentina and Canada, from which a large part of the horse meat marketed in supermarkets in Europe, are denounced Wednesday in videos broadcast by German, Swiss NGOs and French.
Agonizing horses, foals dead from cold on the ground at a Bouvry-Export company center near Calgary, "the biggest horse slaughterhouse in Canada", are shown in a video relayed in France by the Welfarm Association of protection of farm animals, which castigates in a statement "the true face of horse meat".
The images filmed in January and February 2019, showing animals trembling, sick, lying on frozen ground, were filmed by the Swiss associations Tierschutzbund Zurich and German Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).
In Uruguay and Argentina, the images show lean animals, or parked in thousands without care in front of slaughterhouses.
The Americas is the world's leading producer of equine meat. Of the approximately 4.8 million equines slaughtered worldwide in 2012, 41% were in North America, 11% in South America, 11% in Central America and only 8% in Europe (24% in Asia, 2% in Oceania and 3% in Africa), according to FAO statistics.
In France, where 10,200 equines were slaughtered in 2017, or 2800 tons carcass equivalent, the consumption of horse meat is very marginal. It represents only 0.2% of the quantities of meat that are bought by households in 2018, according to the statistics of the interprofessional meat Interbev.
Nevertheless, according to Welfarm, in 2018 France imported more than 4,300 tons of horse meat from the three countries mentioned in the NGO survey (Argentina, Uruguay, Canada), and 77% of the horse meat sold in hypermarkets came from that country.
Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Bouvry-Export said his company was "strictly controlled by the Canadian health inspection agency."
"Everyone can come to see for themselves," said the spokesperson on condition of anonymity, saying that "activism is out of control at the moment, that's all." that I can say.
On Wednesday morning, the French horse meat import companies such as SNVC (Normandy meat and brokerage company) that imports meat from Uruguay, or Equus, which imports directly from Bouvry-Export in Canada, were unreachable.
New investigations from Winter 2019 show that cruel conditions remain unchanged, at US auctions and in Canadian feedlots, as well as during transport and at the Bouvry slaughterhouse in Alberta.
Every year, tens of thousands of horses from USA are live-exported to Canada and Mexico for the sole purpose of being slaughtered for human consumption. If passed into federal law, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prohibit slaughtering American equines on U.S. soil or abroad. Help pass the SAFE Act by contacting your member of Congress >>