As demand for donkey hides rises, the world’s donkey population is in danger of being wiped out or severely reduced. The gelatin in the animal’s hide is a key ingredient in a traditional Chinese remedy called ejiao, and an estimated 4.8 million hides a year are needed to satisfy the demand. A new report from the Donkey Sanctuary claims that over the next five years, nearly half of the current global donkey population of 44 million will be gone due to high demand for hides.

The donkey trade takes place mainly in Africa, Asia, and South America, where the animals are exploited in horrific conditions or stolen from communities, and then transported on long journeys with little access to food and water to slaughterhouses where they are cruelly killed. Twenty percent die en route.

Pregnant mares, young foals, and sick donkeys are not spared from the skin trade.

Since 1992 the donkey population in China has fallen by 76 percent, and since donkeys are slow to reproduce, the demand for donkey hides in China has extended internationally. Although 18 countries have imposed laws against donkey slaughter, enforcing those laws has proven difficult.

The Donkey Sanctuary hasn’t disputed the importance of donkey hides to Chinese medicine, but is encouraging the ejiao industry to find alternatives, like artificially grown donkey-derived collagen. The charity is also asking the Chinese government to suspend the import of donkeys and their products until both can be proven to be disease free, humane, sustainable and safe, as well as for national governments to take immediate steps to stop the trade.

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