Chinese demand for donkey gelatine is hammering the Chinese and African donkey populations, putting the price of donkeys out of reach for subsistence farmers
It was a bout of period pain that led to Liu Yanan’s first taste of donkey gelatine. The 13-year-old was visiting family in Beijing when her cramps started for the first time. Her aunt took out an ornate box filled with smooth chocolate-brown slabs, broke off a small piece, and stirred it into a pot of sweetened rice porridge.
The medicine was ejiao, a Chinese medicine made from donkey skins and used for over 2,500 years. Yanan hesitated before eating the mixture, but she trusted her aunt and wanted relief from the pain. “I felt comfortable afterwards. My body was warm,” she says. “I took it for a month and the trouble went away.”