Donkey abattoir: An investment that never was

Donkey abattoir: An investment that never was
Published: 28 February 2018 (847 Views)
LAST October, the news of a donkey abattoir opening here sent tongues wagging and elicited mixed feelings from a cross-section of society.

It sounded bizarre to Zimbabweans, to whom donkey meat is taboo and could never make it to the plate.

While a few seemed to support the idea, many, including animal welfare groups and culturists, were fiercely against it.

It's unheard of, they argued.

Two major fears were outstanding from those who frowned against the idea - the possibility of donkey meat permeating into local butcheries and the likelihood of an increase in donkey thefts.

So deafening was the noise in reaction to the initiative.

Not only did it attract the attention of politicians but the international community too.

But four months down the line, the noise and the anxiety about the donkey slaughtering business - spearheaded by Battlefront Investments located in Manningdale in Umguza district - seems to have died down.

Not many are still talking about the matter on the streets of Bulawayo, as had become the case during the days when the news broke out.

The government and other concerned stakeholders have apparently stalled work at the much-publicised abattoir.

Since the abattoir was built, the owner, Gareth Lumsden, has bought a number of donkeys, on stand-by for slaughter as soon as a licence was secured.

The donkeys had reportedly been bought from surrounding areas of Tsholotsho, Nkayi and Kezi, among others.

Last December, the department of Livestock and Veterinary Services (DLVS) made the announcement that the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it had put down over 10 donkeys that were facing the guillotine at the facility.

Bulawayo SPCA veterinary surgeon Anele Dube noted that the donkeys, which were being kept at a feedlot at Manningdale, were killed after the animal welfare organisation realised they were in a bad health state.

This followed a visit by the SPCA and Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ) officials who recommended that the animals be euthanised.

After visiting the abattoir this week, Southern News witnessed a sorry sight of the project that seemed abandoned.

Hopeless as it might have looked, the project owner, however, remains confident that things will turn around.

But if anything, he admits that politics have dealt a major blow to his project.

"It's all political," says Lumsden, as he refuses to grant this paper an interview.

"There are too many parties involved. But for now, I will reserve my comments. I will speak at the right time. I will call you guys for a press conference at the right time," he said grudgingly.

From the short conversation, it could be sensed that Lumsden is a man who now has developed a strong mistrust of journalists following reportage about him and his project.

It was clear he blames the media for having a hand in suffocating his dream. A successful farmer and businessman, Lumsden is no newcomer in the slaughtering business.

He also runs a goat and sheep abattoir.

During the visit, the Southern News crew, found all donkey pens empty, but a quick inquiry from some farm workers indicated that only 25 donkeys which had been taken out for grazing at the nearby grazing land are currently being kept.

After setting up the donkey abattoir, the company intended to export the meat and hides to China where they are in high demand, especially the latter, which is used to produce a traditional Chinese product called ejiao.

The company had already started building the $150 000 state-of-the-art donkey abattoir, with capacity to dress more than 70 animals daily.

The opening of the abattoir in the city was meant to take advantage of the closure of the donkey abattoir in neighbouring Botswana, where donkey meat is a delicacy.

Botswana suspended export licences for the animal products mid last year after villagers had complained that they were losing their donkeys to thieves who were cashing in on the animals.

- dailynews


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