The donkey: To slaughter or not to?

Donkey to Slaughter or not
The donkey: To slaughter or not to?

Early this year, the first donkey abattoir in the country was opened in Baringo County. Putting up the slaughterhouse in Mogotio Location was however, not a smooth affair from the beginning with a cross section of people opposed to the project.
Donkey owners in the neighbouring counties of Nakuru, Narok and Uasin Gishu feared that this would result in increased theft of this animal, whose role has been traditionally confined to providing transport; hence, the reference to “the beasts of burden”.
Many meat consumers were also concerned that unscrupulous butchers could sell to them donkey meat disguised as beef. Consumption its meat remains a taboo among many communities, owing to cultural and religious beliefs.
The opposition, however, melted when it emerged that the meat was not for local consumption, but for export to China. It was also said that the abattoir would create jobs for the community living around Chemgoch Village.
Others argued that the abattoir would provide an avenue for culling old, weak and sickly animals. With the anticipated benefits, Goldox Limited Kenya Slaughter House was licensed as an export abattoir and since April this year; traders have been ferrying donkeys in lorries to the facility with a capacity to slaughter 100 animals daily.
However, with the project having taken off, fresh concerns are now emerging about its sustainability and the long-term economic benefits of slaughtering the animal vis-a-vis its traditional role of transporting people and goods, and ploughing the farms.
A study carried out by an animal welfare group, Brooke East Africa, questions the anticipated benefits to donkey keepers and says that their population is now threatened.
According to the group, the current donkey population stands at 1.8million. With 100 donkeys being slaughtered daily, their population will decline faster than they can reproduce, as their gestation period is 12 months. Secondly, donkeys are known to self-abort when subjected to stressful situations.
At the slaughterhouse, a donkey fetches Ksh 8,000 on average. This is far below the earnings generated by a single donkey in a year in transport. The cost of hiring a donkey cart ranges between Ksh500 and Ksh1,000 a day, depending on the region and season. Mr John Kinuthia, from Njoro Township in Nakuru County, puts his daily earnings from ferrying water for sale and other goods at Ksh1,000.
Three months into the opening of the slaughterhouse, he lost three of his donkeys and suspects they ended up at the abattoir. The survey carried out in July, ranked Njoro Sub-County as leading in donkey theft, with 17 animals having been stolen in a span of three months.
Naivasha Town had lost three animals by July, but the Brooke EA report notes that some cases are never reported to the authorities. In the paddy fields of Mwea in Kirinyaga County, the animals are a darling of rice farmers.