A recent report has revealed that donkey skin, used as traditional medicine in the ancient Chinese medicine market, “has less nutrition than a cabbage”.
The report by Humane Society International, titled “Ejiao”, has found that the so-called medicinal properties the Chinese believe donkey skins possess, is nothing more than the proteins found in your everyday meal.
The report comes after a spate of brutal donkey killings in KwaZulu-Natal at the border of Lesotho near Sani Pass last year. In January 2017, 18 donkeys were found skinned alive near the Lesotho border. A week later, the number had risen to 35.
The donkeys were found in a kraal eight kilometres from the Lesotho border in the Twin Springs area.
Two people were arrested and charged with animal cruelty in connection with the skinnings but were later released and the charges dropped due to insufficient evidence.
The Ejiao report states donkey-hide gelatin (DHG, or ejiao) was used as an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine in ancient times.
Donkey hide contains a gelatine which is claimed to be valued for medicinal purposes by the Chinese.
But the report warns DHG producers have exaggerated the properties of donkey hide to turn a profit in China’s booming traditional health market.
The report said that DHG is an inferior protein that does not have the right kind of amino acid to be of nutritional value for the human body.
Instead, DHG is used only as a form of glue in the food industry.
It went on to say a large number of DHG products in the market that purport to be made from donkey hide, instead contain leather trimmings and hides from horses and cattle.
The report said some manufacturers added harmful substances such as chromium, lead, mercury, arsenic and others, which will soon cause ill health instead of healing the consumer. “Chromium, found in the trimmings of leather shoes, belts and bags, is used in the production of DHG to reduce cost while lead, mercury and arsenic found in DHG come mainly from illegal additives.
“Long-term intake of these harmful substances may cause immune system disorders, damage to the nerves, endocrine, liver and kidney systems and can cause cancer.”
National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) senior inspector Nazareth Appalsamy said the donkey trade in South Africa was ongoing. However, the perpetrators had become “more vigilant” in the way they do business.
He said that police in Limpopo intercepted a “sealed truck transporting 13 donkeys” just over a week ago. He said the suspects were arrested and charged with theft.
Charges of animal cruelty are also being laid as one donkey’s leg was broken while it was being transported in the truck, which was not suitable for the transportation of animals, and the donkey had to be euthanised.
When asked how big the donkey trade is in South Africa, Appalsamy said it was impossible to speculate as it appears the operations have “gone underground since NSPCA and local SPCA involvement in previous cases.
“All perpetrators involved in this crime will be prosecuted to the maximum.
“Law enforcement agencies are working together with the NSPCA in combatting this crime. The public is urged to report any sightings of donkeys being moved or animal hides being transported — please report sightings or information to the nearest SPCA or police for investigation,” Appalsamy said.
Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness