This study was commissioned by Brooke London under the Innovative Fund Initiative (IFI) to explore and document the impact of the donkey trade and slaughter process on donkey welfare in Kenya, with a focus of identifying areas that need improvement to conform to donkey welfare best practices.
A descriptive approach was adopted for this study due to its nature and type. Household questionnaires triangulated by 22 key informant interviews (KII), two separate homogenous focus group discussion (FGD) groups of 8 men and 8 women who own donkeys; and observation with use of digital photography were used to elaborate the household questionnaire. The households sample size was established using the Krejcie and Morgan table and the sampling procedure used systematic random sampling to achieve the desired sample size. The household data was analyzed using SPSS and Microsoft Excel while the qualitative data was analyzed based on the enduring and crossing-cutting themes to triangulate the household survey. The study used weighted mean to analyze challenges of handling donkeys under different circumstances and the opinion of respondents on the improvements required to enhance donkey welfare.
Majority of the respondents (83.25%-323/388) were female. The main economic activity for respondents was livestock keeping at 53.4% (206/388), donkeys included. About 42.2% (163/388) of the respondents were aware that the Government of Kenya had gazetted donkey meat for human consumption. However, 87.6% (340/388) did not support the slaughter of donkeys for human consumption. The main reasons why respondents did not support donkey slaughter were that it was against African Culture (39.4%153/388). Almost all the respondents (99.5%-386/388) kept donkeys for traction and other work. Those earning between 7,000 and 15,000 shillings monthly from the working donkey were 44.2% (163/388) while 44.6% (173/388) earned less than 7,000. Only 16.5% (64/388) of those interviewed had sold their donkeys for slaughter since 2015. Majority (10.3%-40/388) of sellers had only sold one donkey. The selling price of a donkey for slaughter ranged from 2,000 to 9,000 shillings with most sellers (4.5%18/388) selling for 4,000 to 5,000 shillings, depending on the state of the donkey.
About 84% (326/388) of the respondents said there were no donkey welfare provisions at the slaughterhouse holding pens while 71.3%(276/388) said the same for holding pens at the donkey market. Majority (87.3%-339/388) transported donkeys to the market on foot walking while 11.6% (45/388) had transported by truck. Half of the respondents (50.3%-195/388) said a donkey is normally given first aid if it gets too sick to travel during transportation contrary to 17% (66/388) who said the animal is forced to continue with the journey. Another 10.8% (42/388) said very sick donkeys are left to die on their own while 8.3% (32/388) said the transporter looks for medication for the animal. Some of the respondents (8.8%- 34/388) had never had a donkey getting too sick to travel.
Challenges and health concerns experienced when transporting donkeys alone on foot ranged from death of donkey (29%-557/1940) to self-mutilation and kick injuries at 35% (674/1940). In contrast, transporting donkeys alone by vehicle presented challenges ranging from bite wounds and donkey death at 10% (186/1940) each to loading difficulties at 15% (297/1940). A great number 97% (376/388) had never experienced or participated in donkey slaughter while 2.3% (10/388) said donkeys were restrained manually and the throat cut. Most respondents at 76% (1469/1940) said increased donkey buying price
and value would enhance donkey welfare. The other two top parameters they said would improve donkey welfare were enhanced veterinary services such as treatment at 71% (1386/1940) and donkey farming to increase donkey numbers at 68% (1318/1940).
It was evident that there is an elaborate system for slaughter donkey procurement by the slaughterhouses and it was rigorously enforced by the slaughterhouses, government veterinary staff and the donkey suppliers. However, donkey welfare was grossly violated in transportation of the animals, at the market collection points and in illegal slaughter.
The study also found an emerging gender issue where the women, who are the household donkey owners, fear that their husbands would acquire the donkey ownership and sell the animals for slaughter because of the rising monetary value of the slaughter donkey.
This study concludes there is need for intervention in the welfare of the donkey in the slaughter and trade process especially at the likely areas of welfare violation; that is market/trade zones for donkeys, during transportation, at the loading and offloading zones, at the holding pens and during the slaughter process. Illegal donkey slaughter should be deeply investigated with a view to stamping it out. More transparency in the donkey trade and slaughter is required to enhance fair trade, especially between the donkey owner and the slaughterhouse.
The study recommends strong collaboration between different arms of the government, especially the Directorate of Veterinary Services and the Kenya Police; and the concerned stakeholders in creating and enhancing awareness, attitude and practice on donkey welfare, more so regarding the slaughter donkey welfare. It is important to address the emerging gender ownership issues in donkey trade and also intervene to develop official standards of donkey transportation which should be implemented and enforced. Donkey owners should be organized into groups such as cooperatives to negotiate better prices for their donkeys and also strengthen their overall negotiating capacity in the donkey trade.