Ejiao, a gelatin-based traditional Chinese medicine is used to treat anaemia, insomnia and reproductive issues. The issue, the gelatin comes from donkey hides, and there is a significant shortfall in the number of Chinese donkeys needed to keep up with demand.
To combat this, China imports millions of donkeys from developing nations, where animals are relatively low cost.
The demand is so significant that it has made the animal classified as an endangered species in a number of African nations. The growth in both the legal and illegal donkey trades has affected many in rural areas on developing nations, as donkeys play a key role in income, as a farming and transport aid for thousands of people. Since 2016, Botswana, Uganda, Niger and Tanzania have introduced bans on the export of live donkeys and donkey hides, in an attempt to curb the decimation of donkey populations in those countries. This has not proven effective, as many of these countries have seen black markets spring up, as well as the incidence of donkey theft arising.
Recently, Australia was subject to controversy as a parliamentary bill banning live exports of horses and donkeys was debated after being proposed by former Senator Derryn Hinch. There was widespread criticism for the live export industry from animal advocacy groups, as there is little oversight for the welfare and treatment of animals once they leave Australia. With all the controversy, Australia does not currently contribute to the ejiao industry in China, and many hope that this will remain the case.