Chinese medicine that puts donkeys at risk

To produce an alien jelly

A “miracle” drug features these animals as the base ingredient, causing millions to be sacrificed

Over four million donkeys are slaughtered and skinned each year to produce ajiao, an exotic gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine that is composed primarily of collagen, and Which can be added to drinks or made into skin supplements and cosmetics. Its use has been going on for thousands of years, with unfounded claims that its miraculous properties can slow aging, treat anemia, increase libido, improve fertility, relieve insomnia, and more. Can or promote health.

Historically, ajiao has been considered “medicine for emperors”, but today it is marketed as a mass-produced wellness product for China’s increasingly affluent population. However, with the worrisome aging of the country, which is projected to be home to nearly 400 million retirees by 2030, demand trends are likely to accelerate.

In China, considerable investment has been made in the donkey breeding sector, but despite the large amount of resources and investment available, the sector is unable to breed in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the population. Since their biology makes large-scale breeding like cattle impossible – gestation periods can last more than a year – any disruption to the import of their skins could increase pressure on the active ajiao industry.

According to a recent study, the Asian giant’s insatiable desire for ajiao leads to the consumption of more than five million donkeys annually, of which only two million are of national origin. The rest apparently comes from illegal imports of the animal, which unfortunately often suffers cruel treatment or is stolen from the farmers who depend on it for their livelihood.

On the other hand, excessive demand has caused the price of fur to skyrocket, according to the Humane Society International, whose most recent figures indicate an increase in prices from less than US$2 to more than 400, with some even saying That sales can increase. $1,000.

Thus, in November the Group of 55 members of the African Union approved a report that called for a ban on the slaughter and export of their skins for 15 years.

The African continent is the center of the ejiao trade, as there are more donkeys here than anywhere else on the planet – about 53 million – and laws governing the horses’ welfare vary across its 54 countries. This is the case in Kenya, which has lifted its horse slaughter ban in recent years, and its horse population has declined drastically. For example, between 2016 and 2018, approximately 300,000 of these animals were sacrificed.

Importantly, when rural communities in affected countries are poached or stolen, a key source of economic support for millions of families and businesses disappears, with devastating impact. From facilitating access to water, to working in agricultural supply chains or transportation, a working donkey provides a means to make an economic living, pay for studies or put food on the table. Furthermore, these hardy animals are critical to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, yet their global populations are declining.

Smugglers use established smuggling schemes to send donkeys across porous borders to Kenya for slaughter, and take them on long journeys in unsanitary conditions, where a significant number die in the process. “Those who survive are murdered in the most gruesome ways, including having their throats cut, skinned alive or beaten to death,” experts say.

Meanwhile, Brazil recently approved a bill to ban the slaughter of horses and donkeys, and it will soon be submitted to the parliamentary Constitution and Justice Commission. Although the country is one of the largest Chinese markets, the animal also has great cultural significance for Brazilians.

The measures adopted in countries such as Brazil and Africa will disrupt supplies to the region’s two largest markets. Overall, the international community hopes that this decision will encourage the ajiao industry to seek sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives.

Furthermore, evidence has been presented that the ajiao trade not only jeopardizes livelihoods, but also risks the spread of zoonotic diseases from Africa to Asia. A report published in 2022 by Donkey Sanctuary, a UK-based non-profit focused on the welfare of donkeys, said that genetic testing conducted on hides from a slaughterhouse in Kenya found African horse sickness and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), One group tested positive. Of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. These findings are worrying as they indicate the possibility of dangerous diseases spreading through the centuries-old medicinal product trade.

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