High street retailer TK Maxx has withdrawn a cosmetics product containing donkey oil from sale after being challenged by equine charity Brooke.

The organisation, which protects the welfare of working horses and donkeys around the world, used social media to inform the chain that the “Elizavecca Donkey Creamy Cleansing Melting Cream” that they were selling across their UK stores contained the controversial ingredient.

The product, which appears to have originated in China, features a smiling cartoon donkey on the front but Brooke says that the packaging masks the cruel trade behind its ingredient.

“The world’s donkey population is experiencing horrific abuse because of the growing popularity of so called beauty products derived from donkeys. In many cases donkeys are cruelly slaughtered and are often stolen from the poor families they support in order to meet this demand,” the charity said in a post.

“Do you know where the donkeys that end up in your product come from and how they are treated? Do you think it’s morally okay to promote and sell such products with a cute cartoon of a smiling donkey?

“We’re sure as a reputable high street retailer with customers who care greatly about animals and the environment, that you will investigate the sourcing and treatment of the donkeys who are used as ingredients for this product.”

TK Maxx were quick to respond on Twitter, saying: “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We take matters of this nature seriously and above all our vendors confirm to us that the goods they provide are in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and industry standards. We’ll look into this as a matter of urgency.”

The company later confirmed to H&H that all their stores had been instructed to remove the product from sale.

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A spokesman for Brooke said the use of donkey skins was a major problem in the Chinese cosmetic market and that they had received multiple reports from their country programme officers in Africa that families were having their donkeys stolen for their hides.

It’s thought working donkeys are being targeted to satisfy the demand that China cannot satisfy domestically.

The scale of the problem has become so significant that the charity hosted a crisis meeting in the summer to discus ways to reduce demand for the hide, which is also used in traditional Chinese medicine called ejiao.

The charity fears that major welfare abuses are taking place in the holding, transport and slaughter of these donkeys, as well as the theft of working animals causing hardship for the families that own them.

A report by The Donkey Sanctuary revealed that during the past three years, global demand for donkey products — particularly skins — had escalated rapidly. Estimates are that a minimum of 1.8million donkey skins are now being traded each year.

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