Chinese demand for drug Ejiao decimating worldwide donkey populations

A customer shops for ejiao, or donkey-hide gelatin, at a pharmacy in Nantong, China. Photograph: Imaginechina Limited/Alamy Stock.

EJIAO (simplified Chinese: 阿胶; traditional Chinese: 阿膠; pinyin: ē jiāo) is an ingredient in a traditional medicine of China made with donkey-hide gelatin or ass-hide glue obtained from the skin of the donkey (equus asinus) by soaking and stewing it.

The drug Ejiao is traditionally thought by the Chinese to nourish the blood and enhance the immune system and is increasing in popularity. The Guardian newspaper warns the increasing demand for Ejiao could wipe out half of the world’s donkey population in the next five years.

 

DONKEYS OF INDIA

Krishi Jagran reporting from India states:

“Though working equids technically fall under the category of livestock, they are often not considered as such by policy makers mainly because they do not produce food of animal origin and so are not perceived as a critical element of people’s livelihoods.

The beasts of burden, draught animals, like horses, mules and donkeys, are the power engine of rural India and many other developing countries, yet, their role and contribution remain unacknowledged in national and global policies.”

The attention of the media was then drawn to the recently released data of the livestock census 2019, wherein the Indian equine population figures had decreased significantly, especially those of donkeys.

“Though mechanization of transport could be attributed as a factor in the declining employability of working equines, 62% fall in donkey population was actually a cause of serious concern, keeping in view the emerging demand of donkey hide in Chinese markets for production of Ejiao.”

This horrendous demand for ejiao has already destroyed a large portion of the world’s donkey population. It was felt that this situation warranted further investigation in the Indian context.

“Of the total equine population in India, donkey, horses/ponies and mules constitute 50.24 percent , 40.93 percent and 8.83 percent respectively. The population of horses and ponies is 24988 and donkeys is 25779.”

The world’s horse population is 55.5 million, mule 12.8 million and donkeys 40.3 million.

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DONKEYS OF PAKISTAN

Business Today reports (Feb. 2019):

“Pakistan is nearly broke with the drying up of foreign cash reserves and mounting external debt. Earlier in February, China had come forward with a loan offer of 42.5 billion and now, in return, Pakistan will be exporting donkeys to its ‘all-weather ally’.”

Donkeys being unloaded for slaughter. Photograph: The Donkey Sanctuary
Donkeys being unloaded for slaughter. Photograph: The Donkey Sanctuary

“Pakistan, which has the third largest donkey population in the world, will export the animal to China, opening the avenue to earn millions from the trade, according to a media report.”

Gelatin made from donkey skin has been long considered to have medicinal properties in China, traditionally being thought to nourish the blood and enhance the immune system.

Pakistan has the world’s third largest population of donkeys with more than 5 million animals, while China stands at number one.

“A senior official at the livestock department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said Chinese companies are interested in donkey farming in Pakistan and foreign companies are ready to invest USD 3 billion, the Geo News reported.

In a bid to boost the country’s exports, the live stock department has announced that it will develop donkey farms the first of its kind in the country.”

DONKEYS OF AFRICA

Donkeys awaiting slaughter at the Goldox Donkey Slaughterhouse in Kenya. As manufacturers of a traditional Chinese medicine struggle to meet rising demand, they are looking to developing countries for donkey hides. Photo Credit: Rachel Nuwer.
Donkeys awaiting slaughter at the Goldox Donkey Slaughterhouse in Kenya. As manufacturers of a traditional Chinese medicine struggle to meet rising demand, they are looking to developing countries for donkey hides. Photo Credit: Rachel Nuwer.

On January 2, 2018, The New York Times reported in the article’s title “To sate China’s demand, African donkeys are stolen and skinned. Now slaughterhouses have opened in Africa, and domestic animals are disappearing from villages”.

The article also sheds light on the drug’s history and the cause of the rise in its demand, price and impact on the donkey population in China:

“Ejiao was once prescribed primarily to supplement lost blood and balance yin and yang, but today it is sought for a range of ills, from delaying aging and increasing libido to treating side effects of chemotherapy and preventing infertility, miscarriage and menstrual irregularity in women.

While ejiao has been around for centuries, its modern popularity began to grow around 2010, when companies such as Dong-E-E-Jiao — the largest manufacturer in China — launched aggressive advertising campaigns. Fifteen years ago, ejiao sold for $9 per pound in China; now, it fetches around $400 per pound.

“As demand increased, China’s donkey population — once the world’s largest — has fallen to fewer than six million from 11 million, and by some estimates possibly to as few as three million. Attempts to replenish the herds have proved challenging: Unlike cows or pigs, donkeys do not lend themselves to intensive breeding. Females produce just one foal per year and are prone to spontaneous abortions under stressful conditions.”

Donkey skins drying in the sun at a licensed donkey slaughterhouse in Baringo, Kenya. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images
Donkey skins drying in the sun at a licensed donkey slaughterhouse in Baringo, Kenya.
Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images

Reportedly Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal have banned donkey exports to China.

WIPED OUT

The issue has escalated since the New York Times report and even higher numbers are now predicted.

Last month The Guardian warned:

Half the world’s donkey population could be wiped out in the next five years, as millions are slaughtered for their hides to meet rising demand for a traditional Chinese medicine.

“It is estimated that 4.8m donkey hides a year are needed to satisfy demand for a gelatin-based traditional medicine called ejiao, according to a new report from the Donkey Sanctuary. At the current pace, the global donkey population of 44m would be halved over the next five years, the report warns.

“Donkey populations in Brazil have declined by 28% since 2007, by 37% in Botswana and by 53% in Kyrgyzstan, and there are fears the populations in Kenya and Ghana could also be decimated by the skin trade.

“The report reveals how donkeys — many stolen from communities who rely on the animals for their livelihoods — are transported on long journeys without access to food or water, with up to 20% dying on route.

“It said broken legs were commonplace, with sightings of severed hooves and lower legs on the ground at offloading sites, and donkeys are often dragged by their ears and tails.

The welfare infringements are absolutely horrendous in some of the places that donkeys are being slaughtered for this trade,” said Faith Burden, the director of research and operational support at the Donkey Sanctuary. “The scale is much greater than we were aware of before.”

“Demand is so high that even pregnant mares, young foals, and sick and injured donkeys are being rounded up for slaughter, and since injury and illness often do not affect the quality of the hide, traders have little incentive to ensure humane treatment, the report said.”

A search reveals that Amazon.com is currently selling Ejiao.
A search reveals that Amazon.com is currently selling Ejiao.

AMAZON.COM

Disturbingly, a search on Amazon.com reveals the self-described “largest online retailer in the world” is selling the drug Ejiao. As of the time of posting, you can purchase Ejiao for $253.94* ($28.80/Ounce) with free shipping. You can contact Amazon at: Amazon Headquarters 410 Terry Ave. N Seattle, WA 98109 or call 1-206-266-1000 to reach the Amazon headquarters and corporate office. Or retweet the following.

*Note: If you are signed into Amazon, it will impact your search result.

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Featured Image: A customer shops for ejiao, or donkey-hide gelatin, at a pharmacy in Nantong, China. Photograph: Imaginechina Limited/Alamy Stock.

Marshmallows — Are they really made with horses’ hooves?

Yes, I'm Vegan says a horse in this Tuesday's Horse artwork. Photo of horse is a free use image according to internet labeling.

When I saw a parcel had arrived from my former husband who now lives in Ireland I could hardly wait to tear it open. He had sent me a text saying he had posted me some biscuits (cookies) and hoped they would arrive okay — as in not all smashed up and nothing but a bunch of crumbs.

Inside the well padded envelope I found one of my all time favorites plus another packet in cheery red. Through a clear bit of the cellophane I could see something all pink and fluffy. I thought ooh, what’s this? Then I saw Jam Mallows emblazoned across the front. True to their name they contained jam and marshmallows.

Darn, I thought to myself, he knows I don’t eat anything made with marshmallows and he knows why.

Marshmallows typically contain gelatin as do products such as Jell-O. I had read somewhere that gelatin is made from boiling animal hides. My dad told me when I was a kid that Jell-O was made from horses’ hooves. And so were marshmallows. I took his word for it and never ever ate those things or anything like it, and haven’t had reason to give it much thought since then.

So I decided to update myself and found the following. There’s a lot more items made with gelatin than I imagined.

Peta reports:

“Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs. Gelatin is used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics; as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (such as Jell-O); in candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, and yogurts; on photographic film; and in vitamins as a coating and as capsules, and it is sometimes used to assist in ‘clearing’ wines. Gelatin is not vegan. However, there is a product called ‘agar agar’ that is sometimes marketed as ‘gelatin,’ but it is vegan. It is derived from a type of seaweed.” [1]


Barbara Mikkelson, writing for Snope.com reports:

“Underneath JELL-O’s jiggly wholesomeness lurks a secret many consumers are disconcerted to learn: JELL-O is made from gelatin, an animal product rendered from the hides and bones of animals, typically pork skins, pork, horses, cattle bones, and split cattle hides.

“The production of gelatin starts with the boiling of bones, skins, and hides of cows and pigs, a process that releases the protein-rich collagen from animal tissues. The collagen is boiled and filtered numerous times, dried, and ground to a powder. Because the collagen is processed extensively, the final product is not categorized as a meat or animal product by the federal government. Very strict vegetarians avoid gelatin entirely, but more permissive vegetarians have no problem including JELL-O in their diets.

“JELL-O products account for about 80 percent of the gelatin market.

“Popular belief has it that gelatin comes from horses’ and cows’ hooves. Kraft, the maker of JELL-O, asserts that hooves do not contain the necessary collagen and therefore are not used in the production of its JELL-O brand gelatin product.” [2]


I looked at the ingredients on the back of the Jam Mallows and it lists “Gelling Agent (Pork Gelatine).”

Well, now that’s settled, do Vegans have to live in a world without marshmallows? Of course not.

A company named Dandies makes them. You can order them in plenty of time for roasting over an open fire and the holidays.

Are you on Pinterest? They have a boatload of ideas including easy recipes on how to make your own vegan marshmallows: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/vegan-marshmallows/

[1] http://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/what-is-gelatin-made-of/
[2] http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/jello.asp