Amazon Taking Heat for Inhumane Donkey Products Sold by Third-Party Vendors

Amazon Taking Heat for Inhumane Donkey Products Sold by Third-Party Vendors

Amazon is facing a stampede of protest over third-party vendors being allowed to sell donkey-based products. A few Donkey-based items, remedies, and snacks easily found on the digital marketplace are products of an international, inhumane slaughter of donkeys, and one California-based equine nonprofit wants Amazon to ban the products from its site. 

Wired reported Friday that there were multiple vendors on Amazon selling donkey-related products, including a gelatin made from donkey hide often called “ejiao.” The advocacy group The Donkey Sanctuary reported back in 2019 that global donkey populations are being decimated by the trade of ejiao, with 4.8 million donkeys slaughtered and skinned annually as of that year. Donkeys reportedly experience “horrendous and inexcusable suffering,” from being transported in overcrowded trucks then being held for days in cramped compounds without any food before being slaughtered.

The trade has become a $US7.8 ($11) billion industry as of 2020, according to data from the Shandong Ejiao Industry Association. A recent paper from the think tank South African Institute of International Affairs shows how the impact has been hurting not just the animals, but the people who depend on their labour.

While Wired scraped more than 1,000 product search results, a simple search on Amazon for “ejiao” leads to several snacks, candy, cakes, and more that explicitly say they contain the donkey-hide-based gelatin. One of these products came with the “Sponsored” tag and explicitly said it contained “Donkey Hide Gelatin.” Some of these products ship separately, although Wired said they confirmed a few are being shipped from Amazon’s own warehouses. Some products reportedly contain ejiao and don’t list that fact on the Amazon product page.

One product explicitly labelled as 'Donkey Hide Gelatin' was picked up in the sponsored section of Amazon's marketplace. (Screenshot: Amazon/Gizmodo)
One product explicitly labelled as ‘Donkey Hide Gelatin’ was picked up in the sponsored section of Amazon’s marketplace. (Screenshot: Amazon/Gizmodo)

There are no horse slaughterhouses in the U.S., and some states like California have laws against the slaughter of horses and sale of horsemeat, both for human and pet consumption. You won’t find any horsemeat on Amazon, but a lawsuit from the Centre for Contemporary Equine Studies, a California-based nonprofit, alleges that the sale of ejiao and other donkey-based products violates the California law.

Gizmodo reached out to Amazon for comment on both the products sold and the ongoing lawsuit, but we did not immediately hear back. All-consuming Amazon is making a killing off of its third party retailers, as a recent report showed the site takes half of many Amazon merchants’ sales as a commission fee.

The law, called Proposition 6, was part of a ballot initiative put to voters on the 1998 ballot. While Frank Rothschild, the equine studies centre director, said that scientifically, donkeys are equine in the same vein as horses, so Amazon violates the law, it remains up to a judge to interpret if the law specifically refers to all members of the equidae family.

Still, the company has been hounded over faulty or illegal third-party products sold on its site. The digital marketplace has hosted fake or unproven covid 19 disinfectants. In 2019, an investigation showed Amazon was playing host to thousands of banned or unsafe products. In 2021, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission sued Amazon over its sale of allegedly faulty products.

Ejiao has been used in traditional Chinese remedies, but the substance’s supposed health benefits have led to its use in herbal medicine and beauty products traded internationally. Other online retailers have banned sale of the product after protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who most know as PETA. According to the New York Post, an eBay executive told PETA in 2018 that it was working to take down listings of Donkey products. Walmart had also taken similar steps.

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