Kiyapili Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
THE Government and the police have expressed reservations on the opening of a donkey abattoir in Umguza amid fears that the meat might be sold locally.
A local company, Battlefront Investments is building a $150 000 donkey abattoir, the first in the country that will have the capacity to dress more than 70 animals a day.
Recently, the company’s managing director Mr Gareth Lumsden said their abattoir is set to be completed by end of this month.
He said they have since started buying donkeys for slaughter.
Yesterday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for Livestock, Cde Paddy Zhanda said eating donkey meat is taboo in Zimbabwe and from a Government point of view, they want assurance that the donkey meat would not find its way into the local market.
The Deputy Minister said this during a visit to the abattoir with a delegation that included Ministry officials and members of the Police Anti-Stock Theft Unit.
“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,” said Cde Zhanda.
He 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.
The National co-coordinator of the police anti 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 farmers feel that their donkeys would be stolen.
“Generally when we are on our ordinary awareness campaigns we deal with livestock farmers.
‘‘Farmers are now worried that there will be an upsurge in thefts of donkeys,” said Snr Ass Comm Makodza.
He said there was also concern that some meat would find its way to the local market.
A representative of the company said they were eying a ready market in China and no donkey meat will find its way into the local market.
Yesterday’s visit by the Deputy Minister and his delegation to the abattoir comes a week after animal conservationists criticised the planned slaughter of donkeys for commercial purposes.
The conservationists made the remarks in a joint statement by Aware Trust Zimbabwe, Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe, Lupane Youth for Development Trust, the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Spana.
“It is with grave concern that the above organisations have learned about the proposed donkey abattoir in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. We would like to highlight the possible socio-economic, animal welfare and environmental consequences that might result from such a venture, and enlighten the Zimbabwean public on the experience of other countries that have licensed donkey abattoirs in Africa. Given that the global donkey population is only 44 million, this insatiable demand is simply not sustainable,” the statement said.
“Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 150 000 donkeys, spread over the communal areas where they are an integral part of community life. The proposed abattoir in Matabeleland has an ability to process 70 animals per day. If supply met demand, using 300 working days per year, the population of donkeys could be decreased by 21 000 donkeys per year.”
The conservationists said housed in unhabituated groups, donkeys suffer from a stress-induced condition called hyper-lipemia, which can kill them.
“There is no ethically acceptable method of intensively farming donkeys and the demand for the skin trade far exceeds the rate at which they can be produced. While some local farmers may benefit from the short-term sale of their donkeys, they are unlikely to be aware of the long-term consequences of this trade. The importance of the working donkey to communal farmers cannot be overstated,” the organisations added.