By Zack Omoro
Donkey meat exporters can now continue with their business after the High Court in Naivasha lifted a ban on the slaughter of the animals.
Owners of a Naivasha based slaughterhouse moved to court to challenge a gazette notice issued by the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Peter Munya on March 20th 2020.
Both owners and traders of the lucrative business whose exports target the Chinese market had cried foul after the ban was imposed, saying they would incur heavy loses.
In Kimana, Loitokitok and surrounding areas, the ‘beasts of burden’ engaged in carrying heavy loads or to perform other heavy work such as pulling water hand carts. And sometimes due to the drought situation in the area, donkeys were given out free of charge to neighbours to carry water from boreholes and streams and also to transport farm produce to local markets because of the poor roads in the area. That is until four years ago.
Today, the story has changed because of the high demand of the animal’s products among them meat, hides and hooves that are exported to China by a Chinese businessmen operating slaughterhouses in Baringo, Naivasha, Kithioko and Dodoma in Tanzania.
There are not many donkeys left in the area because of the high demand but many more are brought to the markets from neighbouring Tanzania.
A big donkey was going for between Sh5,000 and Sh9,000 in 2015 at the Kimana open air market but the traders take home Sh14,000 to Sh20,000 today when they deliver to the Chinese at the established abattoir.
Market attendants concurred that most of the donkeys are brought in from across the border, although local traders also visit villages where they purchase cheap donkeys for delivery to the market.
Once all donkeys have been bought, they are loaded onto trucks and driven to Mogotio or other abattoir where they are slaughtered and the meat stored in refrigerated containers and driven to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport cargo area for export to China.
In an interview with the media, recently, the owner of the Mogotio abattoir Lu Jin said they have dealt with most of the complaints that were being raised by local residents, among them pollution, foul smell and smoke that was emanating from the chimneys.
He also defended the company against accusations that it was responsible for depleting donkey’s across the country because they now have their own donkey breeding field that will make them self- sufficient when they mature.
He said the business has employed many people both at the plant and across the country because they have many suppliers who also work with other people to get the donkeys and deliver them at Mogotio.
“There are 208 employees who work in Mogotio, some taking care of the 102 donkeys that are at the six acre breeding ground and bottle feeding foals. We also buy hay and grass from the local community,” said Lu.
A donkey takes 14 months to mature for slaughter, but the challenge donkey breeders face is that most animals especially those procured from North Eastern and some parts of Tanzania and Somalia die because of stress and climate change.