Brazil’s donkeys “starved and slaughtered” for the skin trade

Brazil’s donkeys “starved and slaughtered” for the skin trade

Footage of dead and dying donkeys, including pregnant mares and foals, has been released by the international animal welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary, showing that the trade in donkey skins, to produce a traditional remedy known as ‘ejiao’ has now reached South America.


The footage, taken at a slaughterhouse compound in the town of Itapetinga, in Bahia state in Brazil, shows hundreds of donkeys being kept in appalling conditions. Graphic images include the carcasses of donkeys and aborted foals dumped in a local river.


On receiving the initial reports, The Donkey Sanctuary mobilised a team from the UK, including a vet, to Brazil to work with its partners, the National Donkey Taskforce, to investigate the animal welfare conditions at other sites in the state. The team also held meetings with government officials and experts in an urgent effort to address the situation. 


Brazilian charity, SOS animais de rua Itapetinga, filmed the distressing scenes and, after widespread public anger in Brazil, the authorities closed the facility down. However, just this week new footage from another compound in Itapetinga was released, once again showing dead and dying donkeys. 


The Donkey Sanctuary is now calling for an immediate suspension of the trade in Brazil until it can be shown to be both humane and sustainable.


Simon Pope, campaigns manager at The Donkey Sanctuary who travelled to Brazil, said: “What I saw happening to donkeys is inhumane and sickening and we believe the Bahia state abattoirs are just the tip of the iceberg. This horrendous case was not just a one-off incident with new evidence now indicating that this is a serial and ongoing problem.


“Our suspicions that slaughterhouses have supply-pens where starving, scared donkeys are awaiting their fate has now been proved – twice in the space of two months. Urgent action must be taken to address donkey welfare throughout the supply chain from the point the animals are sourced to when they are slaughtered.


“During our visit, we were told consistently that the trade has moved far faster than the laws needed to keep it in check. New regulations need to be brought in as a matter of urgency and existing laws should be enforced so that existing measures to protect animal welfare are used to the full – until this is done the trade needs to be suspended.”  


This latest evidence from Brazil has outraged animal welfare supporters – plans are now in place to hold a second protest across 14 states in Brazil, highlighting the scale of concern for donkey welfare and the current inhumane treatment they are suffering. 


Photo credit: Frente Nacional de Defesa dos Jumentos