Monday, December 4, 2023

Mystery backer for Botswana’s donkey export ban revealed

The mystery backer behind Botswana’s decision to ban export of donkey products was a South African based NGO, The National Council (NSPCA) through Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs), Writes Mpho Keleboge.

The South African animal right activists were the organisation that offered advice to Botswana to suspend export licenses for donkey meat and its products.

NSPCA Training Manager, Morgane James revealed that in March of this year members from the National SPCA (NSPCA) South Africa and the Donkey Sanctuary UK requested a meeting with representatives of the Botswana Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security.

She said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss problems they share regarding the slaughter of donkeys.

“This was a very fruitful meeting where we were able to discuss our common problems and Alex Mayers (Programme Manager -International Community Partnership and Education) of the Donkey Sanctuary United Kingdom was able to give some insight into similar concerns across Africa,” said James.

She said the loss of donkeys negatively affects communities and governments have to take responsible steps to protect this resource for the benefit of the people who rely on them. “We commend the Botswana government for having the foresight to see the implications of this trade and for taking such a responsible and leading stance ÔÇô especially given its position as a SADC member,” she said.

According to James, the South African government has been significantly lacking in addressing this problem. “Although we will endeavour to engage and obtain similar commitments it may take pressure from countries such as Botswana, to encourage South Africa to join the growing number of responsible governments and ban the trade in donkeys and their products,” she said.

Giving the background of her organisation’s interest in advocating for the welfare of donkeys, James said donkeys are critical for the survival of many of the most marginalised people who rely on them for daily transport of water, wood and food.

“For transporting the family to church, to collection of pensions, to clinics and to family gathering such as funerals and weddings.

The value and importance of donkeys to the livelihood of rural communities in particular, has often been underestimated. Because the people that use donkeys are often marginalised communities that have little recourse to address their concerns with authorities,” she said.

James added that “Animal welfare organisations (Non-governmental organisations such as the NSPCA) are typically the service providers for donkeys and their owners ÔÇô providing primary health care and welfare initiatives and responding to appeals for assistance and support from communities.”

Donkey Slaughtering

James said in South Africa in late 2015 the North West Province Premier Supra Mahumapelo indicated intent to supply donkey products to China, although there appears to have been little consultation with the stakeholders and relevant role-players and a lack of transparency.

 “In 2016 in South Africa (and neighbouring countries) we started receiving numerous reports of donkeys being stolen and slaughtered inhumanely for the Donkey Skin Trade and the skins being shipped to China,” said James.

She added that “We have had ongoing meetings with South African government officials ÔÇô advising of the problems, requesting action from them to stop a problem created by the North West Province. However the responses have been apathetic and unhelpful to say the least. However, as seen in other African countries this trade has a very negative effect on the communities who rely on these animals leading to the ban on donkeys/donkey product exports in Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Gambia.”

The actions by the North West government, James said, pre-empted the trade without the necessary consultation and created a demand for donkeys’ skins which we believe have put the donkeys and their owners at risk.

“In addition this has also put a great strain on law enforcement agencies such as ourselves as there has been a massive increase in the reports of stolen and slaughtered donkeys.  We have investigated numerous cases in South Africa of stock theft, unacceptable transportation and illegal and barbaric slaughtering.  Many of these cases have been in the North West Province, bordering Botswana and reports have also been investigated of donkeys being stolen and moved across our borders.” said James.

She said issues they were concerned about included, porous borders could lead to stock theft and or illegal movement of donkeys animals from or to South, disease risk with illegal movement of animals, they created a demand for donkey skins and put donkeys and their owners at risk

Other concerns also included negative effect on the livelihoods of donkey owners and users ÔÇô theft, cost of replacement donkeys, Falsely labelled donkey meat has significant concern to some religious groups,  promotion of criminality in donkey areas ÔÇô youth being encouraged to steal/slaughter donkeys, lack of Environmental Impact Assessment being undertaken ÔÇô rotting carcasses left in the bush and sometimes near water sources and donkey meat leaching into the food chain without health checks and being falsely sold as beef.

“Sharing common problems with our neighbouring countries and with Botswana being geographically situated next to North West Province we felt we had a responsibility to discuss these concerns with Botswana authorities as they will affect us all in a similarly negative manner,” said James.

Botswana Police Spokesperson Witness Bosija also shared same similar concern with South African Law Enforcement Agency saying they are disturbing concern of animal cruelty to Animals adding that although it is not common to receive reports of such cases Batswana should wake up and report such matters. He further said Francistown Police are investigating a case in which a 24-year-old male is charged with cruelty to animals.

He said investigations on the matter are still ongoing saying this came after a tip off found that 500 donkeys were held hostage by a certain local with some indications that they were being neglected by the suspect. Bosija said although the offense is not common, cruelty to animals is an offense punishable by law because not feeding donkeys, providing water and beating them contributes to the offense.

He says he is aware of the export market to China by some local farmers and that is why they are keeping a close eye in monitoring donkeys in Botswana. Bosija said they are working closely with Ministry of Agriculture to protect animals from inhuman treatment as evidenced by suspension of all license for export donkey meat to China.


Read this week's paper