Don­key abat­toir must se­cure pub­lic ac­cep­tance

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

THE don­key works ex­tremely hard for us, but most of us de­spise it. It is of­ten mis­treated whereas its col­leagues cat­tle, goats and sheep are well taken care of. It pulls carts and ploughs and is able to carry loads on its back as well. No other do­mes­tic an­i­mal can per­form th­ese im­por­tant dual tasks for us. It tol­er­ates hunger more than cat­tle and other live­stock.

We are so­cialised to think that the don­key ex­ists to carry all our bur­dens, so to speak, but de­serves no credit. De­spite its ver­sa­til­ity and stur­di­ness, the an­i­mal does not com­mand much by way of com­mer­cial value yet its close rel­a­tive, the horse, does. We don’t know why.

Zim­bab­weans don’t eat don­key meat, it is meat for croc­o­diles and vul­tures. Since we don’t eat its meat, most donkeys tend to die due to old age. Any men­tion of its meat trig­gers much pub­lic re­vul­sion.

This is the re­vul­sion that has been trig­gered by a $150 000 in­vest­ment to build the coun­try’s first don­key abat­toir in Dou­glas­dale, Umguza, just out­side Bu­l­awayo by Bat­tle­front In­vest­ments. The fa­cil­ity will slaugh­ter 70 donkeys a day when it starts op­er­at­ing by the end of this month. The com­pany is al­ready buy­ing and fat­ten­ing stock in readi­ness for its and the coun­try’s first com­mer­cial slaugh­ter.

Bat­tle­front In­vest­ments man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Mr Gareth Lums­den told our sis­ter pa­per

re­cently:

“Noth­ing re­ally has changed in terms of how the an­i­mals will be dealt with. It will be the same as if you are buy­ing cat­tle, sheep or goats but if you get to a par­tic­u­lar area if you are buy­ing cat­tle, goat or sheep you need to get po­lice clear­ance. You still have to get a Depart­ment of Live­stock Vet­eri­nary Ser­vices move­ment per­mit. You still have to seek with a par­tic­u­lar coun­cil, if there are funds to be paid to the re­spec­tive coun­cil. All of that is be­ing done, it’s in place and we should be good to go in a cou­ple of weeks.”

The Govern­ment has been alarmed by Mr Lums­den’s rare in­vest­ment, as we have been. An as­sur­ance that the meat would be ex­clu­sively for ex­port to China has not been good enough. The Chi­nese have an ap­petite for don­key meat. They also use its skin to make a tra­di­tional rem­edy which uses don­key gelatin, to treat a wide range of ail­ments in­clud­ing colds and in­som­nia.

In­deed Bat­tle­front In­vest­ments has a task to con­vince all of us that the don­key meat that they will process will not end up on our din­ner ta­bles. The fact that the com­pany is al­ready op­er­at­ing butcheries three in Bu­l­awayo and one in Vic­to­ria Falls makes the whole sit­u­a­tion more in­trigu­ing. To what ex­tent can we trust Bat­tle­front In­vest­ments that some don­key meat will not end up in the four out­lets?

It is a huge con­fi­dence is­sue which needs the Govern­ment and other stake­hold­ers to work on most dili­gently.

Agri­cul­ture, Mech­a­ni­sa­tion and Ir­ri­ga­tion De­vel­op­ment Deputy Min­is­ter, Cde Paddy Zhanda, vis­ited the abat­toir on Wed­nes­day to get a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the in­vest­ment and how it will be run. He spoke for all of us when he said eat­ing don­key meat is taboo in our coun­try.

“We there­fore have an obli­ga­tion to put mea­sures in place to en­sure that don­key meat is not sold in lo­cal butcheries,” he said.

We look for­ward to the mea­sures be­ing put in place but be­fore then we sug­gest, as a pre­con­di­tion for the fa­cil­ity to open, a per­ma­nent de­ploy­ment of law en­force­ment agen­cies at the place. Th­ese of­fi­cers, sup­ported by vet­eri­nary ex­perts would be mon­i­tor­ing the slaugh­ter of the an­i­mals, the pack­ag­ing of their meat and pro­vide es­cort to the point at which it is air­lifted from Zim­bab­wean ter­ri­tory to China. They just have to be there along the way, just in case.

Ac­cu­rate records of an­i­mals at the farm, their slaugh­ter and trans­porta­tion of the meat to China must be kept also. They should be avail­able for pe­rusal at any time by law en­force­ment agents or other Govern­ment of­fi­cials.

In ad­di­tion, the com­pany has to con­vince civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions who have raised much dust over the past few weeks, say­ing the in­vest­ment has po­ten­tial to pre­cip­i­tate theft of donkeys and their over-ex­ploita­tion in terms of slaugh­ter that the process would be sus­tain­able.

Is­sues to do with sus­tain­abil­ity are crit­i­cal given lessons from other coun­tries such as Botswana, Tan­za­nia, Niger and Burk­ina Faso where pop­u­la­tions were de­plet­ing so fast that gov­ern­ments feared a pos­si­ble ex­tinc­tion of the an­i­mal.

How­ever, we must com­mend Mr Lums­den for see­ing busi­ness where all of us saw no value, a mere don­key to be over­worked and abused. If his busi­ness gets its pa­pers in or­der, the in­vest­ment would help in mon­etis­ing the an­i­mal. More peo­ple might be en­cour­aged to rear don­key on a com­mer­cial scale know­ing that at the end of the day, there is money to be made from them. Even its mis­treat­ment might end as well.

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