Botswana to regulate donkey industry
By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE – Botswana’s Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security has said that it has identified some gaps in laws that are aimed at protecting donkeys and horses against abuse and cruelty of animal in general.
The announcement comes on the heels of local media reports that a Chinese national was recently arrested after he was found to have quarantined more than 500 donkeys which were kept under poor conditions. The animals were to be slaughtered and their products then shipped to Asia where they are in demand.
Speaking during a press conference on the welfare of donkeys, the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Thamasanqa Silitshena, said plans are at an advanced stage to strengthen laws that govern regulations of slaughter and rearing of donkeys.
“We have also realised that little has been done in regulating the keeping and slaughtering of donkeys,” he said, adding that they also intend to hold workshops across the country to engage farmers and other stakeholder on the matter.
“We would sit down with stakeholders and see where we can strengthen laws governing slaughter and rearing of donkeys. As you may realise a donkey has not been identified as part of livestock,” he said, adding that there is need to have donkeys being classified in the same category as cows and be regarded as livestock.
“We want to ensure that the trade on donkeys and their products are monitored closely and we believe that the public and business community will adhere to the regulations,” he said.
According to the ministry, donkey hide export to China has fuelled the exploitation of the animals hence the need to regulate donkey industry. The ministry has revealed that only 10 percent should be slaughtered per annum.
Silitshena explained that the demand for donkey products and lucrative market in China for the local donkey farming has resulted in the abuse of the animals by farmers looking to make money.
He further stated that “there is a belief that the gelatin found on the donkey hide has properties that work as an aphrodisiac, hence the demand.”
Speaking at the same event, Assistant Minster of Agriculture Kgotla Autlwetse concurred with Silitshena that there is cruel killing of donkeys that aroused from escalated demands of donkey products in Asia, especially China.
Botswana through the Ministry of Agriculture has since suspended exports of donkey products.
“Donkey hides are in high demand in China where they are boiled to extract a gel used for medicinal purposes. The market in China is lucrative hence the growing numbers of cruel killings of donkeys,” said the Assistant Minister.
He acknowledged that while donkeys continue to contribute to food security their welfare has always been neglected.
“For a long time donkeys have been absent from the food security and agriculture interventions (FAO 2014). This implies neglect that leads to abuse by their owners,” said Autlwetse. Citing official figures from Statistics Botswana 2015 report, Autlwetse said Botswana has a population of around 227,000 donkeys. But the number is decreasing at an alarming, threatening food security of the rural dwellers.
He said donkeys provide both direct and indirect incomes to rural households and therefore make it an important contributor to families’ access to food and services adding that It is for this reason that there is an urgent need for the development of a Code of Welfare for donkeys and horses. Autlwetse said the public should be sensitised on donkey welfare and the benefits derived from rearing them.