Clothing/Cosmetics and Animal Abuse Article from All-Creatures.org



Victims in the shadows: donkey fur and skin

From There's an Elephant in the Room blog
November 2023

If blogging about animal rights has taught me anything at all, it’s that not ONE SINGLE COUNTRY is in any position to point fingers of blame at any other when it comes to the brutal and unnecessary persecution of the innocent individuals with whom we share this planet that our hubris is rapidly destroying.

Donkeys (Equus asinus) are facing a global crisis as demand for their skins increases. This demand is driven by the need to supply raw materials to produce ejiao, a Traditional Chinese Medicine made from collagen extracted from donkey skins.

burdened Donkey
Image by Evan Price / We Animals Media: A donkey harnessed to a cart waiting to transport people and goods in the Republic of Gambia, Africa. In The Gambia, donkeys are the primary means of transport for both people and goods, typically hauled on these flat carts.

Honesty forces me to admit that whilst I appreciate that in many countries the use of donkeys and other equines for haulage and heavy lifting currently has no obvious alternative that I can suggest, as an animal rights advocate I find this a deeply upsetting situation and long for the end of the dreadful suffering that is its consequence.

So, I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, when you think of donkeys you think of these gentle, biddable, individuals being pitilessly used for hard labour, overworked, beaten, starved and broken. And that was a sufficiently horrific image for anyone to have in their head. Now, I find that’s only part of the story.

A page follower recently drew my attention to the fact that donkeys are under increasing persecution for their skins and fur – something I had been completely unaware of. I hate when I find out something new about nonveganism because it’s NEVER anything good.

Now before I start, I can anticipate how this may unfold when many read that the country driving this particular demand is China, but racism and xenophobia are unhelpful. They’re also inappropriate in the extreme. If blogging about animal rights has taught me anything at all, it’s that not ONE SINGLE COUNTRY is in any position to point fingers of blame at any other when it comes to the brutal and unnecessary persecution of the innocent individuals with whom we share this planet that our hubris is rapidly destroying.

Furthermore, it must be pointed out that there is a GREAT deal of similarity between this trade that persecutes donkeys in particular, and the brutal and destructive supply mechanisms that meet increasing nonvegan demand for collagen ‘beauty’ treatments much, much closer to home.

And so, back to donkeys

Donkeys (Equus asinus) are facing a global crisis as demand for their skins increases. This demand is driven by the need to supply raw materials to produce ejiao, a Traditional Chinese Medicine made from collagen extracted from donkey skins.

In an excellent and thorough analysis of the trade, Frontiers in Veterinary Science summarises as follows:

Since there is no productive chain for donkey skin production outside of China, the global trade is an entirely extractive industry that has resulted in the decimation of some local donkey populations. The donkey skin trade is demonstrably unsustainable, from the ethical issues associated with poor welfare, to the biosecurity and human health risks the trade poses; and it violates both legal frameworks and moral expectations at both a national and global level.Increased levels of personal wealth in China is fuelling demand for luxury products including ejiao, a product made using donkey skin. A traditional medicine, ejiao’s popularity is largely due to its reported ‘anti-aging’ properties. Demand for donkey skins to produce ejiao is conservatively estimated at 4 million per year. This represents a significant proportion of the global donkey population of 44 million. China’s own donkey population has nearly halved in the last 20 years and entrepreneurs are now looking worldwide to satisfy a growing demand.

General observations about sustainability, welfare and regulations

Obviously as an animal rights advocate, my perspective differs slightly. It may seem pedantic but words that strike me are:

  • Sustainability: From the perspective of an individual living creature, few words describing their needless slaughter for the nonvegan indulgence of our violent species, have ever been so meaningless and ridiculous as ‘sustainable’;
  • ‘Welfare‘ in respect of the victims of nonveganism, is a word rarely used with victim wellbeing in mind: it’s an exploiter’s word. Read the link to find out more [Straight talking about ‘welfare regulations’/]'
  • Legal and moral frameworks: as for the lack or absence of regulation, that’s another term that usually sits alongside ‘welfare’. In many western countries, the nonhuman incarceration, use and slaughter industries are ‘regulated’ up to their ears but because the exploiters make the rules, the dice are always loaded in their favour and their priority is profit. Always. If proof were needed, I’ve spent years illustrating posts and blogs with images of standard regulated practice that provoke outrage, disgust, disbelief and demands for ‘more’ laws, ‘more’ enforcement. Who do you think makes the rules? People who care about victims as individuals worthy of the right to live unharmed and in peace? No. Such people would not create victims in the first place. Such people would create a vegan world. As long as exploiters write the rules, the victims of nonveganism will continue to lose out every time.

Having said that, one thing that ‘regulation’ does do with extreme efficiency, is keep track of those nonhumans who are considered to be business resources; they are, after all, profit on legs. Because so often, the donkeys who fall prey to this trade are stolen from small establishments and individuals and slaughtered in the bush, or else purchased untraceably and rounded up for transport to slaughterhouses of dubious provenance.

Unseen in the shadows

Frontiers in Veterinary Science further notes:

The invisibility of the legal and illegal markets is compounded by illegitimate export practices and criminal gangs. Due to the lucrative market for skins intensive farms are present in China and are likely to expand to other countries, such rearing creates significant welfare concerns for a species poorly adapted to intensive practices. Even if awareness of this trade improves, in the short term donkey owners are facing donkey prices that have increased up to tenfold within a few years and they are without the means to replace animals they depend on.

This emerging trade is, essentially, a fur trade with animal skins being sourced for human beauty. However while furs are visible, the role of donkey skins in ejiao products is invisible to the end user, mirroring the invisibility of the trade and donkeys themselves.

I was particularly interested to note the above definition of the trade in donkey skins as ‘a fur trade with animal skins being sourced for human beauty’. A popular focus for nonvegan outrage is the fur trade, amongst humans who would spew vitriol about someone with the audacity to wear a fur coat, before walking home in their sheepskin boots and having a burger and a milkshake on the way.

So where are the lines?

Today’s thoughts have highlighted to me just how impossible it is to draw clear lines between one type of exploitation and another. Fur is linked to skin is linked to beauty/alternative medical treatments and so it goes. If we oppose the use of fur, we can’t justify stopping at that because there is no line to draw. Our OWN standards of basic decency must surely lead us to the conclusion that embracing veganism is the only way that we can withdraw our personal consumer demands from the web of horror that supplies nonveganism. Do it today.

FFor more, please read: Donkey Skin Trade and Its Non-compliance With Legislative Framework 


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