Donkeys slaughter outcry illustrates ethical issues in globalisation

30Dec 2019
The Guardian
Donkeys slaughter outcry illustrates ethical issues in globalisation

RECENT reports say that stakeholders a raising alarm as donkey numbers slide, as data cropping up from animal welfare and rural populations’ concern indicate a shocking reduction in the number of donkeys. Stakeholders are urging the government to forbid the slaughtering of the domestic animal or-

-their being exported.

As the government has moved to slap a rather costly ban on exporting of birds and insects among other types of species, adding donkeys on the list ought not to be too problematic.  Activists also

want that the government conduct a countrywide identification of where specific numbers of donkeys are found, control unregulated exportation to neighbouring countries. Their numbers may rise and be made available to farmers needing them – not for slaughter.

The Tanzania Veterinary Laboratory Agency (TVLA) released figures saying that there were about 1.5 million donkeys in the country before 2016 but the number dropped to 595,000 in the past year. That is to bring the animals close to extinction as they don’t apparently propagate as much as cattle, and some interested parties pursue their meat in a particular way. Traditionally there is no use of donkeys as meat with possible exception of some hidden communities.

Interest is thus rising to know precise numbers of donkeys in the country as well as their lifespan and reproduction cycle. A group known as the Inades Formation Tanzania, a non-governmental organization with offices in the capital, appealed to the government to immediately ban the slaughtering of donkeys in the country.

As many will say that donkeys like cattle are animals like any other, it is their profound economic use as beasts of labour that makes their case different. And as it is the case with India and a stretch of tribes in the country and elsewhere in Africa, an animal that is put to labour is not going to be put to slaughter thereafter. Many elderly herders know their cattle or cows by name, and when this happens they don’t sell them to go to the butcher’s knife, as knowledge of names creates trust. It transcends the mere fact of being animals, to friendship.

There are hence various reasons why it will be helpful for the government to take heed of this appeal to stop slaughtering and exportation of donkeys. It is rural dwellers who will benefit more, and culturally we shall have added something of a treasure and even conscience, that a laboring animal is like a family member, like a lactating cow bearing milk, though here the rules are not as precise.

It is also unclear how far such an understanding can be reaches with authorities across the border, if the current spate of good relations can be made to accommodate such a need. There is at times a more liberal attitude on commercial matters across the border but then we also share a breadth of values, whether it is in commerce or in ethics, so the matter is worth raising for discussion. But then we have scarcely finished putting our house in order first on that issue, before delving into having an ethical perception on the matter for the zone as a whole.

Finding donkey meat on restaurants while rural populations in the two countries lose a treasured aide to farm labor and taking produce to markets is objectionable.  It is a tricky issue but as Mwalimu said, ‘it can be done if you play your part.’

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