Amazon faces lawsuit for selling products containing donkey meat

Amazon faces lawsuit for selling products containing donkey meat
Four wild donkeys stand in a valley in the Mojave desert, near Rhyolite, Nevada.Moelyn Photos/Getty Images
  • A new lawsuit claims Amazon is breaking California law by selling products containing donkey meat.
  • The retailer continues to sell items with "ejiao," a gelatin made from the skin of donkeys.

The Center for Contemporary Equine Studies is suing Amazon for selling products containing donkey meat, despite efforts from advocacy groups to halt the practice.

The lawsuit claims the e-commerce giant is illegally selling products that contain "ejiao" — a gelatin made from the skin of donkeys and used in various products like health supplements — in violation of California animal welfare law.

According to the Brooke USA Foundation, a group fighting against Amazon in support of donkey welfare, ejiao acts as "a hard gel that can be dissolved in hot water or alcohol to be used in food or drink, or in beauty products such as face creams." Some advocacy groups and consumers claim companies are deceptively using the substance, contributing to the slaughter and skinning of millions of donkeys a year.

One Amazon customer told Wired she was shocked to discover anti-hemorrhage dietary supplements on the site that claimed to be "100 percent pure, natural herbs" but contained "gelatina nigra," another name for ejiao.

"It's not herbal. It's literally made with donkeys," the customer said. "Why would Amazon sell something that cruel?"


The lawsuit comes after efforts led by advocacy groups to push Amazon to drop the products through campaigns and petitions, to no avail. While competitors like Walmart and eBay have pledged to remove products containing ejiao and prohibit future sales, according to Wired, Amazon has yet to nix the products, even as pressure mounts.

Now, the lawsuit is aiming to use an obscure law to stop the sale of ejiao, claiming Amazon is breaching the 1998 Prohibition of Horse Slaughter and Sale of Horsemeat for Human Consumption Act on the grounds that donkeys are equine animals, according to Wired.

According to an analysis of 1,000 products containing ejiao or that included terms like "donkey hide" conducted by Wired, at least 15 edible items contain the gelatin, and at least four were available to ship directly from Amazon warehouses (as opposed to third-party sellers).

According to The Pegasus Foundation, an organization advocating to ban donkey hide products, an estimated 8 to 10 million donkeys are killed and skinned each year to meet demand for ejiao. A 2019 report by The Donkey Sanctuary found that "cruel and often illegal treatment of donkeys by local traders is rife" — including documentation of Tanzanian workers bludgeoning animals with hammers to meet slaughter quotas for ejiao.

The suit calls on Amazon to ban ejiao immediately, and if a court rules against the retailer, the company could potentially face fines of $1 million per each day a transaction involving the gelatin occurs in the state of California, according to Tech Times.


"We need stop the sale of ejiao on the world's largest purchasing online platform," Brooke USA Foundation states on its website. "If we help curtail product availability, we can have an impact on the economic gain of those involved in the manufacture of ejiao — both legal and illegal suppliers."

Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider's request to comment.