Shandong, a Chinese company which had closed its donkey abattoir due to a direct order from the Oromia Regional Government has appealed to President Dr Mulatu Teshome, to reopen the abattoir located in Bishoftu .
The abattoir had opened last March and had worked for three weeks before it was shutdown. During the three weeks it was open; the facility had slaughtered 1,800 donkeys and exported 75 tons of meat.
The abattoir faced a problem when it collided with the community’s values and norms; donkey meat is not consumed culturally and it is also forbidden in the Christian and Muslim Faiths.
Zhaohua Lia, Shandong Ethiopia branch vice manager told Capital that they are appealing to the President to be able to resume work in a short period of time.
“We told the President that we are not against Ethiopian culture and the supervision within the company was very strict; we did not sell a gram of meat in the local market. Our products were 100 percent exported to the Asia and European markets,” Lia stated.
He added that the company has not gotten any responses from the Federal and Oromia Investment Commission even though it had tried to contact officials several times.
“When we first came to Ethiopia we did not have any interest in opening such a facility; we where only interested in buying hide. But then the government proposed for us to open an abattoir and we accepted the proposal. The Oromia Industry and Urban Development Bureau allocated a land of 15,000 square meter and we invested over USD 150 million and four years to construct the abattoir. The facility was shut down shortly after it started operation and hired over 130 employees.”
“Before we started operations, we made an agreement with the community where the facility is located; we agreed that we would not buy female donkeys and young donkeys. What we bought were old donkeys that are usually left on the streets which otherwise would die and be eaten by hyenas,” Lia added.
He further explained that the company had a plan to construct a breeding center in Ethiopia by buying 10,000 donkeys from the local market.
Capital asked Mekonen Hailu, Public Relation Head at the Ethiopian Investment Commissions to weather the government will re-open or permanently closed the abattoirs.
“I can’t say much about these issue; they brought wrote a letter to us to requesting the re-opening of the abattoir and we are looking into it and hope to give a response in a short period of time,” Mekonen said. He added that other Chinese companies were also asked to open donkey abattoirs in Ethiopia.
Capital’s effort to contact the Oromia Investment Commission for questions on the case was unsuccessful.
Donkeys have been used as working animals for at least 5000 years. Of the more than 40 million donkeys in the world, about 96 percent are found in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as pack animals or for work in transport or agriculture.
In China, donkey meat is considered a delicacy with some restaurants specializing in such dishes. Donkey-hide gelatin is also produced by soaking and stewing the hide to make different traditional Chinese medicines. Ejiao, the gelatin produced by boiling donkey skins, can sell for up to USD388 per kilo, according to prices from October, 2017.
Recernet statistics show that Ethiopia has more than four million donkeys.