British animal welfare organization, Network for Animals (NFA), has called for an immediate world-wide ban on the export of donkey skins to China, saying that donkeys could be wiped out in four years if the trade is not stopped.

David Barritt, NFA’s chief campaigner, said that research has shown that Chinese demand is for 10 million donkey skins every year to use in making Ejiao, a skin cream that has no proven worth. “There are only 44 million donkeys in the world. Chinese demand could see them wiped out in four years.”

Barritt said that NFA has discovered a massive trade in donkey skins, focused on Africa, that is causing devastation to donkeys and disruption to lives of rural African people. “The donkey skin trade is very cruel,” he said. “In South Africa donkeys are led into makeshift, illegal slaughterhouses in the bush, where they are clubbed unconscious and skinned. Very often the donkeys are flayed alive.”

Barritt said in Kenya the trade has been legalized. “Poor people are encouraged to sell their donkeys and there is a thriving smuggling trade from neighboring Ethiopia. When donkeys are wiped out in one area, the traders move on to another.”

He said that the trade is having a devastating effect on the lives of rural people. “Donkeys are used as transport to take children to school and to fetch water and firewood. Without donkeys, the children often can’t get to school. Instead, they are used as child labor to fetch water and wood,” he said.

According to research NFA has conducted, African governments have not yet realised the devastating effect of the trade and are doing nothing to stop it. “The scale of the slaughter amounts to donkey genocide, and the only way to stop it is for the trade to be banned before it is too late,” said Barritt.

See a report on the donkey skin trade on the news show FYI: For Your Info on Sky News on Saturday, 25 May at 10:30am, 4:30pm; Sunday, 26 May at 10:30am.