The government of Burkina Faso has adopted a decree banning the export of donkey meat and skin to Asia. The director for public veterinary health, Adams Maiga said the government adopted the decree “regulating the slaughter of and banning the export.” The new decree, which went into effect on August 3, also includes regulations on camels and horses.
Maiga told the AFP that all slaughters would henceforth have to be carried out in “officially recognised” abattoirs. Maiga explained that the new regulation was designed to keep donkey and other livestock populations at a sustainable level.
In recent years, some Burkinabes have profited from a thriving international trade in donkey meat and hides. This demand has caused official figures of donkey exports to rise from barely 1,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to 18,000 by the last quarter of the year. The Sidwaya Daily in Burkina Faso quoted the customs service in a report saying 19 tonnes of donkey hides had been flown to Hong Kong alone between October 2015 and January 2016. China and Vietnam are the major destinations for these exports.
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The booming market for donkeys has also resulted in a sharp rise in prices. “A donkey that cost 50,000 CFA francs [85 USD] a couple of years ago now sells for between 70,000 and 90,000, CFA francs [110 to 140 USD],” says Issouf Kombassere, a donkey butcher in Saaba, a rural area in the centre of the country.
Up until now, the bulk of the donkeys meant for export in Burkina Faso have been slaughtered in privately owned abattoirs. Often, the businessmen who operate these facilities have little concern for the attendant effects their commercial activities may have on the environment. Most of the abattoirs are characterised by poor sanitary practices and ineffective waste disposal methods.
In July, scores of youths from of Balole, a village on the outskirts of the capital city Ouagadougou ransacked an abattoir owned by a French and Chinese consortium. They had had enough of the putrid stench coming from the abattoir as well as the effect its polluted run-off water was having on their land and crops.
Burkina Faso has also seen its donkey population fall in recent years as a consequence of the rapidly expanding exports to the newfound Asian markets.
“More than 45,000 donkeys have been slaughtered in less than six months” out of an estimated total of 1.5 million, says government spokesman Remi Fulgance Dandjinou.
Donkeys serve as important beasts of burden in Burkina Faso, where a majority of the population are poor farmers who live off the land. The meat is also widely consumed in many parts of the country as a delicacy and for its supposed medicinal value; however, the newfound markets in Asia have led to fears in some quarters that demand would sooner outstrip supply.