Derived from donkey skin, ejiao is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Demand for donkeys to meet its growing popularity has put the equids at risk
A booming demand for a traditional Chinese medicine, ejiao, is driving up prices for donkeys across the globe, say donkey researchers and welfare experts. Meanwhile, donkeys themselves are paying a much higher price, with often “brutal” slaughter methods and “horrific” pre-slaughter conditions, those experts say.
“We’re seeing absolutely terrifying scenarios, mainly in developing countries,” said Faith Burden, PhD, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary, in the U.K.
This includes herding donkeys for hundreds of miles with no rest, food, or water or transporting them on tightly packed trucks for 24 hours at a time, Burden said. Many are sick or injured, and pregnant jennies often abort their fetuses during the journeys, as her organization described in a recently released report on the trade, “Under the Skin.”
Skins From North America
American donkeys and wild burros are no exception to the trade, said Amy McLean, PhD, equine lecturer at the University of California, Davis. “I’m currently working with a donkey rescue organization to remove donkeys from park service lands because the park service can just go in and euthanize those animals, or somebody from China can just come buy them,” she said.
The increased demand has shot up donkey prices across the U.S., said Marjorie Farabee, equine manager at Todd Mission Ranch Rescue, which houses nearly 400 donkeys, mules, and horses in Plantersville, Texas, and director of Wild Burro Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation. “American donkeys are being sold to kill buyers who take them over the border (for slaughter in Mexico and Canada),” she explained. “They’re being trucked over Eagle Pass (southwest Texas-Mexican border).”
Like donkeys in developing countries, American donkeys take long journeys—generally by truck—to supply the high demand for their skins in China, she said…(CONTINUED)