A film has been released highlighting the donkey skin trade — a “heartbreaking” issue causing a rapid decline in the world’s population of donkeys through often brutal slaughter methods.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s video will be used to raise awareness of the skin trade, where donkey hides are used to supply the demand for traditional Chinese medicine Ejiao.

The skin trade has an impact on donkey welfare as well as the livelihoods of the ­­­­­­­­­­­communities that rely on the animals, as the animals are often stolen or sold for a very low price.

“At every stage in the journey, from the supply countries where the skin is coming from, we’re hugely concerned about welfare,” said Alex Mayers, head of programmes at the Donkey Sanctuary.

“The donkeys are being sourced from communities who rely on them all the time and when they wake up to find all their donkeys have gone, that’s a huge blow for the people as well as the animals.”

The charity has been investigating the skin trade since 2015, when it discovered the scale of the issue.

“We saw donkeys being stolen or sold at very low prices for their skins,” said Mr Mayers.

“The demand is far outstripping the supply of donkeys in the world. Within a few years we could be facing a situation where there just aren’t enough donkeys left.

“This is all about the skins. All of the value for the life of the donkey and the importance of the donkey to humanity are gone.

“The method of slaughter is also a huge concern. We’ve seen donkeys that are poisoned, machine-gunned or slaughtered with very crude blows to the back of the head and we’ve seen donkeys which have been skinned alive.”

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The Donkey Sanctuary is working with communities whose donkeys are “at risk” from thieves and lobbying various governments to help them understand the consequences of this trade.

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary’s website (www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk) to see its full report into the skin trade.

Those who wish to support the charity in tackling the issue can visit the charity’s JustGiving page (www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/donkeysanctuary/under-the-skin)

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