The four people charged with cruelty to animals after they were found transporting 41 donkeys – in a manner that caused “unbelievable suffering” – from Limpopo province to an abattoir in Randfontein in September, were sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment in the Polokwane Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
According to a media statement issued by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) on Wednesday, the convicted were not given the option of a fine and had admitted guilt to criminal charges for cruelty to animals laid in terms of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962.
“All are foreign nationals who were additionally sentenced to two months’ imprisonment to run concurrently for residing illegally in South Africa,” read the statement.
The NSPCA believed that the conviction relayed a strong message that animal cruelty would not be tolerated. “The NSPCA applauds the magistrate and the state prosecutor who acted swiftly and have been instrumental in ensuring justice was served.”
The NSPCA described how criminal charges were laid in terms of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 against the now convicted men after a vehicle was intercepted by personnel from the Polokwane SPCA in late September.
The 41 donkeys that were being transported comprised adult males and females, as well as foals, and were being transported in the same compartment in a state of collapse. Some were crushed, dead or dying.
“Humane euthanasia was undertaken to end the suffering of the severely compromised and suffering animals. The NSPCA expressed horror at the manner in which these donkeys were handled and transported resulting in this unbelievable suffering,” read the statement.
It is believed that the donkeys would be slaughtered for their hide to be used for Chinese traditional medicine.
It was previously reported that the NSPCA had found that the demand for donkey hide, which contains a gelatine, was supposedly for medical purposes, such as treating anti-ageing, insomnia and blood circulation.
The NSPCA therefore said that the incident was not isolated and that the animal inspectorate would “pursue leads to uncover and handle further instances when donkeys are being stolen and abused in terms of transportation, general neglect and the unacceptable manner of slaughter for the trade in donkey hide for Chinese traditional medicine”.
The NSPCA remains “gravely concerned” as the practice is widespread and growing.
The Highveld Horse Care Unit (HHCU) had previously told The Citizen that the slaughter of donkeys for the trade in their hides was rapidly diminishing the donkey population in South Africa.
Managing director of the HHCU Bev Seabourne said HHCU had been investigating such illegal slaughters and trade in donkey hides for about a year, and they had been prosecuting individuals that have been caught in the act since May 2015.
“This trend is growing in popularity, as the skins trade for a very attractive sum,” Seabourne said.
The NSPCA further calls on the public to assist them with information on such practice. “You may remain anonymous, but the more information you are able to give, the more helpful it will be in tracking down and bringing to justice those involved in this despicable, horrendous and cruel trade.”
– Caxton News Service