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Brazil Debates Fate of Millions of Idled Donkeys

LUCIANA MAGALHAES: ‘The dependable donkey once did it all here in northeast Brazil, from hauling in the harvest to carrying children to remote schoolhouses… Modernity and the skyrocketing sale of motorcycles have demoted the burro from its long-held status. Once cherished here for their hardy load-carrying, donkeys are increasingly seen as a nuisance as they saunter into traffic or munch greenery in people’s yards…

Enter China, where soaring demand for protein has put donkey meat on the menu. But Chinese consumers hanker after more than just the meat. They also have a growing craving for ejiao, a gelatinous substance made from boiled donkey hides, which is said to boost health, reverse aging and serve as an aphrodisiac.

Brazil, with 1 million donkeys and world-class slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants, is now looking to cash in. The plans to do so have touched off an emotional struggle between those who see donkeys as animals to exploit, even to consume, and those who want to protect what they see as a steadfast emblem of Brazilian rural life…

“Donkeys are a symbol of Brazil’s northeast,” said Geuza Leitão, president of an animal-rights group in Ceará state north of here and author of “Your Excellency, The Donkey,” a book eulogizing the humble burro. “We want them to leave the donkey alone”.’  SOURCE…

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