Spain has made the decision to pass regulations for donkey welfare. This includes protecting the rights of donkeys that face the potential extinction because of skin trade. Although Spain already has moderate protections for the welfare and rights of other animals, these regulations are intended to deal with a specific issue facing the donkey population.
Root of the Problem
Billions of donkeys around the globe are killed by traders because the skin of donkeys is used for producing traditional Chinese medicine. Unfortunately, this has led to the killing and transportation of many donkeys, including some that are sick and pregnant mares. This presents an entirely different set of issues, especially as it relates to the sale of sick animals. Specifically, there’s a greater risk of equine flu and other biosecurity issues.
There is an increasing demand for products related to different parts of the donkey and this has led to an unprecedented number of donkeys being destroyed. Another way in which the donkey is used is to produce gelatin from their hides. Since there are some places in the world where regulations do not exist, the population of donkeys is getting dangerously low. In fact, there are more then 80% fewer donkeys in China then there were a few decades ago. There has also been a significant decline in the donkey population in Ghana and Kyrgyzstan, among other countries. The root problem is trying to fulfill the skin trade demand.
There are mission driven organizations in Spain that aim to protect the welfare of donkeys. Some organizations provide a place of refuge to both mules and donkeys, some of which have experienced an illness or have been abandoned. These organizations are also purposed to uncover any cruelty or unnatural treatment of donkeys that lead to suffering. They provide a significant amount of education so that the wider population is aware of the issues. They also provide training on how to properly care for donkeys during a time when the focus is usually on monetary gain from the skin trade.
Extent of the Problem
It’s worth noting that fulfilling the demands for donkey skin would require the destruction of more than half the population of donkeys around the world. This could mean devastation for communities that depend on donkeys for their livelihood. These are instances where donkeys are cared for and used to support animals. It’s common in some of the poorest communities around the world to find donkeys used for transporting water, wood and consumable products.
The destruction of donkeys will eliminate an income source in communities that need them most. Unfortunately this will have the biggest impact on women and children. Far too often donkeys are stolen from families that already have very little. When this happens, the perpetrators often don’t have any experience handling donkeys, which usually results in treatment that can only be described as inhumane. In some cases, stealing the donkey results in severe abuse, such as kicking them and using tools with spikes to force submission.
Slaughterhouses for donkeys are often infested with maggots and with carcasses that are improperly discarded. By observing donkeys at slaughterhouses, the brutality is immediately evident as some have been beaten with large sticks and hammers. Unfortunately, there are donkey skins for sale around the world and even online that are quite dangerous because of the poor hygiene and unsanitary practices used during the transportation and slaughtering process.
The entire practice of using donkeys for skin trade has made the people of Spain and around the world more susceptible to devastation and disease. The fact that it threatens the livelihood of families by the millions is one of the reasons why Spain chose to enact regulations. It was something that needed to occur and should become a precedence that other countries follow to address the suffering of donkeys in unimaginable numbers.
It’s important to understand that when these types of things happen, they potentially put people around the world in danger. This is the reason why organizations that exist to protect the welfare of donkeys have recommended that the Chinese government cease the import of donkeys and any related products.