Why you may have eaten donkey meat over Easter holiday

Donkey meat is often misrepresented as beef. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kenyans have been repeatedly confronted with reports of suspects apprehended while transporting donkey meat to the market.

In December 2023, for instance, 10 suspects were arrested in Makueni for unlawfully slaughtering 15 donkeys and attempting to transport the meat to Nairobi.

A month earlier, authorities seized several kilos of donkey meat from a suspect in Nairobi’s Burma market. In January 2024, two suspects were detained with 12 slaughtered donkeys and handed over to authorities.

The proliferation of donkey meat in meat markets can be attributed in part to the high demand for meat. Among the highly sought-after delicacies by Kenyans is beef, whether fried, roasted or boiled.

However, this increased demand for beef poses a significant health risk, as Kenyans, may inadvertently consume donkey meat - or worse, may have already done so.

While the donkey was declared as a meat animal on 26th August 1999 by then Minister of Agriculture Musadia Mudavadi vide Legal Notice number 146, mass donkey slaughter for their skins and meat was banned due to declining donkey numbers.

Unscrupulous businessmen

Unscrupulous businessmen have resorted to illegally slaughtering donkeys for their skins and meat, posing a serious threat to public health.

The lack of inspection during slaughter allows the meat to enter Kenyan households, often misrepresented as beef.

Experts caution that consuming uninspected donkey meat procured from bush slaughter could expose consumers to zoonotic diseases such as anthrax, rabies, brucellosis, and chemicals injected into the donkeys before slaughter, such as antibiotics.

Dr Raphael Kinoti, the regional director of Brooke East Africa, an animal welfare organisation focused on donkey welfare, warns, “Have you ever considered how the boneless meat you often buy was sourced? Donkeys are slaughtered in the bush with no veterinarians to check if they are in good condition. The animal is subjected to inhuman slaughter. If you slaughter one donkey with anthrax or other zoonotic diseases, it can kill tens of people.”

Kenyans are therefore urged to exercise caution when seeking delicacies and other edibles to avoid unknowingly consuming donkey meat.

“Kenyans should buy meat from reliable sources, places they know and trust; so that they don’t fall victim to uninspected donkey meat,” Dr Kinoti told The Standard.

The public is further advised to be vigilant for large-scale movements of donkeys, as it may indicate their targeting for slaughter, given the recent surge of hundreds of donkeys being transported.

The country approved the opening of the first donkey slaughterhouse in 2016, which later increased to four - located in Nakuru, Baringo, Turkana and Machakos.

In three years (2016–18), the four donkey abattoirs wiped out over 301,977 of donkey population, according to the 2019 Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) report, “The Status of Donkey Slaughter for Skin Trade and Its Implications on the Kenyan Economy.”