African Union bans export of donkey skin for traditional Chinese medicine

The African Union has ordered a ban for at least 15 years on the trade in donkey skin, which is the raw material for ajiao, a coveted jelly that traditional Chinese medicine considers an invigorating anti-aging agent. The decision, adopted in Addis Ababa during the 37th session of the AU Assembly, was proposed by the Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and the Environment. The report Donkeys in Africa Now and in the Future, promoted by the organization Brook Hospital, which coordinated the Pan-African conference on donkeys in Tanzania in November 2022, also hit out at the ban. Which gave rise to the Dar es Salaam (Ministerial) Declaration.

In China, the insatiable demand for ajiao led to a sharp decline in donkey numbers, so the Asian country turned to Africa (but also to South America: Brazil also has a bill for a similar ban). According to the organization Donkey Sanctuary, approximately 6 million donkeys are killed worldwide each year for their skins and apparently, the “cruel and unsustainable” trend is on the rise.

A “historic moment, a drastic measure against a cruel and unsustainable trade. We thank the African Union”: this is how horse protection organizations were congratulated for their efforts to alleviate the difficult and often painful lives of these working animals. (with veterinary care and awareness), are very useful to poor rural communities – and are often not stolen, killed and skinned to fuel the fur trade.

The domestic donkey (Equus africanus asinus) is descended from the African wild donkey (Equus africanus) which is found in very small numbers in some countries on the continent and is classified as critically endangered. According to the Donkey Sanctuary Organization, approximately 33 million donkeys live and work in Africa, two-thirds of the world’s donkeys; But in Kenya alone, between 2016 and 2019, half of the people killed by ejiao. This law has been quite chaotic so far. At first, some governments saw an opportunity, but then in some countries (Kenya, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Mali and Senegal) exporting became illegal or export taxes were increased to discourage the practice. . But high demand and high prices have encouraged theft and smuggling.

Next steps?

“Work in such a way that the sanctions apply to all countries and that this decision is replicated around the world,” says Brooks’ African official.

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