Government has maintained its stance that it will not allow donkey slaughter for commercial purposes as this will affect the country’s agriculture sector. Authorities believe donkeys’ importance to the country’s rural population that accounts for 60 percent of the population, transcend the desire for hides and meat exports.
This follows the construction of a $150 000 state of the art Bulawayo based abattoir for donkeys. Also, animal rights groups have come out strongly against the project, saying it would see a spike in cases of donkey thefts and drive the animals into extinction.
Conservationists are lobbying against opening of the abattoir and in July Botswana became the sixth African country to impose restrictions on donkey exports following Niger, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and The Gambia.
However, businessman Garrith Lumsden, who already owns an abattoir for sheep, goats and pigs, said donkey meat would not find its way to the local market instead it would be exported to Far East where it was a common delicacy.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said: “Donkeys remain a major source of draught power in the country’s agriculture sector and decapitating them will be a major blow for the smallholder farmer and the agriculture sector.
“We can’t allow our draught power to be undermined by some people who don’t care about this economy . . . who only care about money ahead of the country’s interests.
“Zimbabwe won’t allow draught power to be damaged. If the proposed slaughterhouse is already buying donkeys, it will be a major blow for the rural population, which survives on donkeys for transport and draught power; we can’t allow that.
Donkeys survive better than cattle in drought periods hence given successive droughts in the last decade, they are better draught power than other animals in this instance.
Dr Made said slaughtering 2 100 donkeys monthly, as the abattoir has the capacity to, will have a negative impact on an estimated donkey population of 150 000.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (responsible for Livestock) Deputy Minister, Paddy Zhanda told Business Weekly that eating donkey meat was taboo in Zimbabwe and from a Government point of view, they wanted assurance that the donkey meat would not find its way into the local market.
“There is a lobby group that is totally against this abattoir and Government’s position is that donkey meat cannot be consumed in Zimbabwe. We, therefore, want assurance that this donkey meat will not find its way into local butcheries.”
Deputy Minister Zhanda said members of the public wanted Government to protect them from the risk of consuming donkey meat without their knowledge.
“We, therefore, have an obligation to put measures in place to ensure donkey meat is not sold in local butcheries,” he said.
The national co-coordinator of the police anti-stock stock theft, Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza, said many farmers had raised concern after learning of the planned opening of the donkey abattoir.
He said the farmers feel that their donkeys would be stolen.
“We are generally on our ordinary awareness campaigns and we deal with livestock farmers. Farmers are now worried that there will be an upsurge in thefts of donkeys,” he said.
However, Lumsden reassures Government that donkey meat will only be sold across the country’s borders and will never be sold in Zimbabwe.
He said: “I know it’s a culture shock for most, although some Far East countries actually eat donkey meat and it is considered a delicacy abroad.
“It is important to emphasise (in order to allay some fears of selling donkey meat in local butcheries) that I am going to be exporting everything that I process.”