New Dairy Donkey Management, Welfare Guidelines Published

New Dairy Donkey Management, Welfare Guidelines Published

Donkey milk farming is a growing sector, especially in parts of continental Europe where donkey milk is used as a cow’s milk substitute for allergic infants.

Photo: Courtesy of The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary, based in Sidmouth, U.K., and the University of Milan, in Milano, Italy, presented their new publication, Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys: good animal management practices for donkey milk production, to the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, late last month.

The publication of the new guidelines concludes a two-year research project during which researchers looked at welfare, legislation, and safety issues of milk farming. The project was led by Faith Burden, BSc, PhD, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary, and Michela Minero, DVM, PhD, ECVBM-CA, and Francesca Dai, DVM, of the University of Milan’s Department of Veterinary Medicine.

“Donkey milk farming is a new industry and one that is largely unregulated around the world,” said Burden. “Whilst our charity does not encourage donkey milk farming, we know the trade exists and is growing, so we expect only the highest welfare principals to be adhered to by those in the industry to protect the donkeys.”

Prior to the research project, very little guidance on donkey welfare in milk operations existed, she noted, adding that “now both the novice and experienced donkey milk farmer can ensure high welfare standards for their donkeys, and governments and potential regulators can begin to implement the guidelines to lead to change across the world.”

Minero added, “There is a real need for Guidelines for Dairy Donkeys and we will work together with stakeholders on their implementation to make sure they are effective and can improve the welfare of donkeys.”

Donkey milk farming is a growing sector, especially in parts of continental Europe where donkey milk is used as a cow’s milk substitute for allergic infants and is prized as a cosmetic ingredient. Whilst some donkeys involved in the rapidly expanding dairy industry are well-looked-after, The Donkey Sanctuary hopes to ensure good donkey welfare for all.

The new guidelines are designed to provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for sustainable donkey milk production and recommend practical solutions for their implementation. The guidelines will be available in English, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, French, Spanish, and Portuguese (LA). 

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