Donkey stakeholders in Narok County have expressed fears that the re-opening of donkey slaughterhouses will lead to increased donkey theft in the country and negatively affect their social-economic life.
The farmers said since the High Court lifted the 2020 ban on donkey slaughterhouses, allowing them to resume selling the meat and hides to Asian markets, they have been having sleepless nights as they protect the animals.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya had imposed a ban on the slaughterhouses following public concerns about rising donkey theft in the country.
Obadiah Rono, a donkey farmer in Mulot area said his donkeys are his source of livelihood as he uses them to transport goods to far-flung markets where roads are impassable for vehicles.
He reiterated that his donkeys have helped him earn an income during hard economic times like today when the country is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A donkey is like everything to me. It is a resilient animal during times of drought and pandemics as it can endure erratic weather conditions,” he added.
Rono confessed that he has educated his three children to college-level and been able to give his family a decent livelihood using the income he gets from the donkeys.
Another donkey farmer Ms Susan Kimani termed donkey a special animal to her family as it eases the burden of labour in her home and farm.
“I call my donkey my co-wife because we walk with her everywhere. It helps me fetch water, carry luggage to the market, fetch fodder for my cows among many other things. It has boosted my livelihood,” said Ms Kimani.
Ms Kimani reiterated that she was saddened when the High Court allowed the donkey slaughterhouses to continue operating, saying this was a big threat to the low-income earners in the country, who mostly use donkeys as a means of transport.
Narok Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Bernard Njau said that in the region, a donkey is more beneficial when used by donkey owners than when slaughtered as the locals believe that slaughtering a donkey for food is a taboo.
He said the county was working with non-governmental organizations to promote breeding and rearing of donkeys to regenerate the numbers already lost due to slaughter.
Ms Sarah Kamau of Farming Systems Kenya, who is a donkey specialist, said the skin of a donkey is popular in making a Chinese medicine hence the legalization of donkey slaughterhouses could lead to rampant donkey theft and slaughter.
“The skin of a donkey has special proteins used to make Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the kind of protein that is not found in any other animal. Donkeys are in high demand in the Middle East as their skins are used to make this medicine,” she added.
Donkey slaughter was legalized in Kenya in 2012 leading to a rapid decimation of the beast of burden’s population.
In 2009, the donkey population in the country was 1.8 million which decreased to 1.17 million in 2019 according to statistics by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
By Ann Salaton