Useless ‘Donkey’ Useful ‘Donkey Skin’

Pic Courtesy: Freepik

Donkeys are often regarded as useless animals, but when it comes to its skin, it is very expansive and this is the reason, the population of this innocent animal in the world is under serious threat. The skin is used for making traditional Chinese medicine, which is used to cure various remedies.

Gelatin, which is produced from the donkey skin, is one of the important ingredients of China’s favorite traditional remedies, popularly known as ejiao, which is used to treat a range of diseases from colds to insomnia.

Nearly 5 million skins are required ever year for the production of ejiao, thus the industry need more than half the world’s present donkey population, in the next five years to meet the demand, according to a report from The Donkey Sanctuary.

In the last six years, the ejiao industry has grown increasingly due to the growing demand and price rise, with the annual production increasing from 3,200 tonnes in the year 2013 to 5,600 tonnes in 2016, according to the report.

Now to meet the demand, Chinese businesses need nearly 4.8-million donkey skin every year. Since 1992, the donkey populations in China have declined to 76%, that’s why the industry has turned to foreign suppliers, particularly in Asia, Africa, and South America.

As a result, Brazil has seen a reduction of 28% in the donkey populations since 2007, compared to 37% in Botswana and 53% in Kyrgyzstan.

In response to the growing trend of Donkey killing, The Donkey Sanctuary has pressed for “an urgent halt to the largely unregulated global trade in donkey skins before donkeys are virtually wiped out in some areas”.

The impact of the decline of the donkey population is more clearly felt by the 500 million people who are directly related to the animals in some of the world’s poorest communities.

The scale of demand for the animal is so high that they are often transported to the slaughterhouses in terrible conditions. 

According to an estimate 20% of the animals die during the transit. Even the pregnant mares and young foals, and sick and injured donkeys are also being traded.

Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary says, “This is suffering on an enormous and unacceptable scale. This suffering is not just confined to donkeys as it also threatens the livelihood of millions of people.” (Byte Courtesy: The Donkey Sanctuary)

The Donkey Sanctuary has also suggested an alternative for ejiao manufacturers to switch to artificially grown donkey collagen in place of their skins. The organisation also suggested that China must immediately suspend the import of donkeys.

The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM), which regulates the traditional Chinese herbal medicine in the United Kingdom, has condemned the use of substances that endangers animals. The organization also alerted against the unethical sourcing of the donkey skins, said Martin John, who is the council member of RCHM.

Martin John said, “Whilst such gelatin products have their medicinal uses, their use in modern Chinese medicine practice is unnecessary and unethical using current sourcing”.

Gelatin from chicken, pork and beef can be used as an alternative, while vegetarians can use certain kinds of seaweeds and herbs in place of the medicine. One good is news is that, so far 18 countries across the world have taken action to protect their donkey populations.