Worldwide donkey crisis:
Donkeys are some of the most widely abused equines in the world.
Donkeys have played a fundamental role in our society since as far back as 4000 BC – helping us with physically demanding tasks in some of the most challenging terrains. But these spirited and intelligent long-eared equines do not receive the appreciation they deserve. Instead, donkeys are in crisis all around the world – suffering from abuse, neglect and, worst of all, slaughter at the hands of the horrific Chinese donkey skin trade.
This insatiable industry wipes out hundreds of thousands of donkeys every year so their skins can be used for a cosmetic called ejiao (pronounced “uh-jee-ow”), which has no proven benefit whatsoever. In Africa, donkeys are bludgeoned to death and sometimes even skinned alive. At the current level of slaughter, donkeys could be extinct within the next four years.
Since 2018, we have made huge strides towards ending the dreadful donkey-skin trade. We have caused slaughterhouses in Tanzania and Kenya to be shut down; persuaded the South African government to revisit its laws on donkey slaughter, and successfully lobbied for the banning of trade in Zimbabwe. We have also worked to replenish depleted donkey populations and improve the conditions for working donkeys in several parts of Africa.
None of this would be possible without the support of our donors. When you donate to Network for Animals, you help us continue our work in ending senseless donkey slaughter, help support sick, injured and abandoned equines, and give hope to overworked, neglected equines around the world.
In Kenya, we exposed a situation at a slaughterhouse where 2,000 donkeys a month were killed for their skins, which were then exported to China. Thanks in part to our efforts to raise awareness about the situation, donkey slaughter has now been banned in Kenya. The global purchase of donkeys and donkey skins is a savage operation run by organized Chinese syndicates who show no mercy for animals, or people that get in their way. They often descend on rural villages and steal donkeys, or force owners to sell at giveaway prices, then slaughter the animals in makeshift abattoirs.
Despite the legal ban on their slaughter, donkeys continue to be killed in their droves for the insatiable Chinese donkey skin trade. Together with our partner, the Kenya Society for the Protection of Animals (KSPCA), we are working to help protect these gentle creatures. In 2023, we donated three off-road motorbikes to the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, aiming to reduce illicit activities.
On the Greek island of Santorini, we expose horrific cruelty inflicted on donkeys every day in the peak of the summer. Donkeys and mules are forced to carry tourists up and down a 1300-foot (400 meter) high cliff all day in the baking sun without shade, food or water.
Donkey owners say if they provided food, the donkeys would defecate and soil the path, upsetting tourists.
Some donkeys have open wounds, others have crude wire muzzles over their mouths to prevent them from eating. The donkeys’ working hours are supposed to be regulated but the authorities have done nothing because of the money donkey-owners (called “muleteers”) rake in from visitors.
In 2018, the municipal authorities promised to improve working conditions for the donkeys by providing drinking troughs at points on the cliff path. This did not happen. When our team visited the island again in July 2019, they were attacked and whipped by the donkey owners. The police did nothing, saying they were on lunch.
We are now forming coalitions with other organisations to increase our pressure and will continue to press for a long-term solution to the problem of donkey exploitation on Santorini. The latest update will be to increase awareness.
Network for Animals supports the Starting Over Sanctuary (SOS), a safe haven for neglected donkeys situated in the Moshav Herut region of central Israel. Thanks to our supporters, we are in a position to provide SOS with consistent monthly donations. The funds go directly towards the sanctuary’s work rescuing and rehabilitating numerous donkeys, horses and other animals who find themselves in challenging and abusive situations across Israel.
In 2022, NFA supported the relocation of 200 donkeys rescued from abuse and neglect to La Tanière, a well-vetted sanctuary in France just outside of Paris. This remarkable 4,595-kilometer (2,855 mile) journey was only made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
An extensive undercover investigation by Network for Animals in June 2021 revealed the enormous scale and utter cruelty of the Chinese donkey skin trade in Africa. The Chinese use donkey skins to make a cosmetic called ejiao (pronounced “uh-jee-ow”), a pointless waste that has never been proven to work, and which kills millions of donkeys annually.
In Tanzania, we sent a team to investigate and chronicle illegal slaughtering practices at a Chinese-run donkey slaughterhouse in the north of the Shinyanga region. What we found directly opposed the regulations in place for animal welfare and humane slaughter. Tens of thousands of donkeys were being killed each month, and rather than giving them the compassion of a gentle, pain-free death, slaughterers were cruelly bludgeoning them with hammers.
Together with our partner, the Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA), Network for Animals successfully lobbied the Tanzanian government to shut down the abattoir. This was a colossal victory for donkey welfare. In pursuit of more long-term solutions, we are also financing an educational outreach program to inform donkey owners of the proper care for donkeys.
In 2022, ASPA alerted us to a dreadful situation at a market in a rural region called Mirongoine. Every week, more than 1,000 donkeys are forced to walk 10 miles (16 kilometers) in the blistering heat while massively overladen, severely injured, hungry and with no access to fresh drinking water. We were able to construct a shaded area with built-in water troughs that can accommodate up to 200 donkeys. We laid pipes connected to the nearby municipal water supply and are pumping in an ample amount of water for thirsty donkeys. Our partner also regularly visits the market to treat the donkeys and monitor their welfare.
With the help of our major donor, the Brady Hunter Foundation, NFA constructed an additional three shaded areas with built-in water troughs in November 2023 to accommodate the remaining 600 donkeys who visit the market each week. In the remote town of Geita in northwestern Tanzania, donkeys are used to haul backbreaking weights in an archaic method of gold mining, causing terrible suffering to these gentle creatures. ASPA began conducting monthly visits to the area to provide the donkeys with deworming medication, medical care and proper saddlebags so they cannot be overloaded.
In Zimbabwe, we work with an equine sanctuary in Bulawayo that combats cruelty, rescues donkeys, and fights to end the donkey skin trade. Zimbabwe is a bankrupt state with so very few medicines available for animals and no money to buy them with. We provide food and veterinary treatment for all the animals.
Matabeleland Animal Rescue & Equine Sanctuary (MARES) rescues terribly abused donkeys throughout Bulawayo and beyond. In rural, poverty-stricken Zimbabwe, people use donkeys as a means of earning a pitiful wage by carting junk and rubble. As a result, the animals incur terrible injuries which are never treated, and when they collapse from disease or pain – having been severely overworked their entire lives – they are usually left to die on the spot. Some of the worst cases of abuse we have dealt with have been in Zimbabwe – for example, Melody who was molested by humans, and Althea who was axed almost to death – both rescued by MARES. With our supporters’ help, we pay for food, veterinary care, rehabilitation and shelter for rescued donkeys in MARES’ care. Currently, MARES has around 96 permanent donkey residents at its sanctuary.
Helping horses in need:
Horses and ponies have played an integral role in our society for centuries, aiding us in physically demanding tasks across diverse landscapes. Despite their spirited nature and intelligence, these four-legged companions often lack the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, horses and ponies worldwide are facing a crisis, enduring abuse, neglect, and the grim fate of slaughter for various purposes.
One pressing issue is the ruthless exploitation of equines for illegal bush racing. In particular, the underground horse racing industry poses a significant threat. This illicit practice subjects horses and ponies to extreme conditions, often resulting in injuries, neglect, and, in some cases, fatalities.
We’ve made substantial progress in combating illegal horse racing. Our efforts have focused on exposing and dismantling these operations, advocating for stronger regulations, and providing support for the rehabilitation of horses and ponies affected by this cruel practice. Additionally, we’ve been dedicated to replenishing dwindling horse and pony populations and enhancing the living conditions of working equines in different parts of the world.
South Africa 🇿🇦
The Have a Heart Equine Sanctuary (HAHES) is a valued long-term partner of Network for Animals. HAHES gives equines in need a place of safety, love and a chance for a new life, through care, education and rehabilitation in rural parts of Africa. We support numerous abused donkeys and other equines under the care of HAHES. In addition, we supply HAHES with the much-needed resources and equipment to continue their worthy work. Some of our projects with HAHES involved successfully rescuing and rehabilitating 32 horses and three foals from drowning in Alexander Bay, uncovering a massive illegal bush racing ring, and rescuing more than 50 neglected equines found with their feet bound together with no access to water or shelter. Most recently, we were able to assist with a young, unhandled colt named Taittinger, by providing emergency funds towards his life-saving cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
United Kingdom 🇬🇧
In the United Kingdom, we support the HUGS Foundation, an equine rescue charity in Bodmin, set in a rural environment. HUGS is a haven for abused, abandoned and neglected horses and ponies. HUGS always tries to find homes for rescued creatures, but more often than not, they remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives due to their histories of mistreatment and need for specialist, long-term care. HUGS tries never to turn away innocent creatures in need.
One example is six miniature Shetland ponies, a moorland pony and a donkey who were at risk of being slaughtered because their owner became to old to care for them. HUGS saved them. Among them is Oscar a donkey who has met his true love – Dude, an orphaned foal, orphaned pony siblings Herbie and Gus, and Igor, a tiny white pony who suffers from Dwarfism. Igor is now part of HUGS’ well-being program, which provides support to children, the elderly and veterans.
How we fight against cruelty
Education: Educating the public about the animal welfare concerns inherent in horse fighting is a crucial part of our work. Network regularly persuades television stations and newspapers to cover the horse fighting issue, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with our message of compassion. Additionally, we print and distribute educational leaflets and posters in horse fighting areas, give presentations to veterinarians, schools and civic groups, and when funding allows, run advertisements in newspapers.
Petitions: Tourism is a vital source of revenue for the southern Philippines, an area that has an abundance of world class diving locations and beaches. Network works to petition prominent officials, with our team following up all petitions.