Human-animal relations in the Brazilian Northeast: a socio-anthropological case study of donkey trade

When conducted: 
15 January 2019 - 30 June 2020
Core methodology: 
In-depth semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and social actors. This will be complemented by document analysis of relevant materials including, advertisements, manuals, background papers, letters and memoranda, newspaper articles, press releases, organisational or institutional reports and various public records. Statistical data published by official Brazilian institutions will also be reviewed, in order to support to the analysis.
This 16-month project aims to contribute to ongoing studies developed in partnership with The Donkey Sanctuary and the Veterinary and Animal Science Faculty at the University of Sao Paulo, concerning the donkey skin trade. Believing that interdisciplinarity is one of the best strategies to address multidimensional problems, this research project proposes a socio-anthropological approach to identify public perceptions of donkeys and the threats they face in the Brazilian Northeast, mainly in the state of Bahia.
The specific objectives are: 1. To identify social actors (individuals or organisations) related to donkey trade and donkey protection in the Brazilian Northeast, especially in the state of Bahia; 2. To contextualise the scenarios where donkey trade takes place in Brazilian Northeast; 3. To identify and analyse personal and collective perceptions (social representations) constructed about donkeys (and the donkey trade) by different actors, including: rural populations; animal health authorities at local and national levels; legal authorities; animal rights organisations and welfare representatives.

Between welfare and conservation: understanding ‘risk’ in relation to feral and free-roaming donkeys


Cara Clancy. 2 September 2019. Between welfare and conservation: understanding ‘risk’ in relation to feral and free-roaming donkeys. Poster presented at 2nd International Wild Equid Conference. (1 September - 5 September 2019). Prague, Czech Republic.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Monday 2 September 2019

For thousands of years, the donkey (Equus asinus) has played an essential role in human society, underpinning the earliest forms of civilisation, providing critical trade networks, and contributing to modern western history through the colonisation of the ‘New World’. Yet, with the advent of motorised transport and agricultural machinery the role of the donkey has diminished in many parts of the world. No longer considered economically viable, donkeys have been turned loose over the years and left to fend for themselves (Mitchell, 2018). These feral and semi-feral donkeys are domesticated animals that have managed to re-adapt, survive and reproduce on their own, without human management. Australia now holds the world’s largest population of feral donkeys – thought to be around 5 million individuals. Here, they are framed as pests; no longer seen as useful to society or fitting for the landscapes in which they dwell. In these situations, donkeys can suffer due to local mistreatment or government attempts to contain the problem, as is the case with the controversial Judas Collar programme in Australia (Bough, 2006). Currently, very little is known about the welfare status of feral and free-roaming donkeys globally. Due to their ambiguous status (being neither owned nor wild) there is often a grey area with respect to their legal status, rights and protections. This paper suggests that more research is needed to understand how welfare issues are defined and prioritised in relation to feral donkeys – both at the individual level and population level.

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