THE Government has vowed not to license the donkey abattoir in Bulawayo as slaughtering of the animals is unlawful in the country, an official said.
Speaking at the Donkey Skin Trade Conference in Bulawayo on Tuesday last week, the deputy director of veterinary public health, Dr Jairrus Machakwa, said the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services would not authorise the proposed donkey abattoir to operate.
“The issue about an abattoir that has been built in Bulawayo is known and we have responded to the entrepreneurs in accordance with the provisions of the law to say yes, you want this abattoir registered but the species that you have mentioned in this application is not covered in the regulations,” he said.
Dr Machakwa said the facility could remain in place but it should not be utilised for its earlier intended purpose (slaughtering of donkeys).
“As of now we cannot register the property for the purposes that you are applying for, hence the existence of the structure does not matter. The abattoir will remain there as his property but the function will not be undertaken because the reasons are outside law. At this juncture we know there is no donkey abattoir that has been licensed or that can be licensed according to the existing legislation regardless of how smart the premises could be,” he said.
Last year a Bulawayo company, Battlefront Investments invested over $150 000 in the construction of its specialised state-of-the-art donkey abattoir at Waterford suburb, which was to be the country’s first ever such facility. However, the facility was barred from operating following outcries from animal conservationists and the public.
Dr Machakwa said the donkey was not included among food animals that may be slaughtered for meat consumption and export as stipulated in the country’s regulations.
“What I can assure you is that there is no legislation of donkeys at this juncture and the power rests with our people, if our communities wake up and say we now want to eat donkey meat then the legislation will be changed to suit the need of the population. So if we want to do something we talk to the people; the community leaders, the religious leaders, the schoolchildren and whoever matters. When it comes to amending the legislation it is actually what the people want,” he said.
Dr Machakwa further highlighted regulations used for the registration of abattoirs such as the Public Health (Abattoir, Animal and Bird Slaughter and Meat Hygiene) Regulations of 1995 that states that the donkey is not a food animal as “animal” means any bovine, sheep, goat, pig or rabbit, but does not include any equine whether domesticated or wild with the other legislation being the Produce Export (Abattoir, Slaughter and Meat Hygiene) Regulations (1984) which governs the co-operation of an export establishment. As stipulated in this regulation the donkey is not included among the food animals that may be slaughtered for meat consumption and export.
Donkey skins are the basis of a Chinese traditional remedy called ejiao, which is used for treating a range of blood conditions and, increasingly, as a general wellness product. During the past decade skins have surged in value — fetching up to $400 each — as China’s donkey population has dwindled.
The result is an unprecedented global trade, much of it illicit.
In his presentation on “Perceptions and risks to Zimbabwean communities” Lupane Youth for Development director Mr Alfred Sihwa said there was a need to put in place legislation for the protection of donkeys.
“Zimbabwe doesn’t have a legal statute now as we speak on how to monitor the donkeys . . . when you talk of a rhino horn and an elephant tusk you already know that those have well-stipulated laws that help protect those animals, but for donkey skins now we don’t have legal statutes that really specify to the issues of donkeys,” said Mr Sihwa.
He said a number of researches conducted in the country have shown that most people do not value donkeys.
“The value that is tied to the donkey in African traditions is not good like in Shona if they call you “uridongi” or in Ndebele if they call you “uyidonki” (you are a donkey) one would feel offended and in English we call it a beast of burden, which means it carries all our burdens,” said Mr Sihwa.