Online retailer Amazon has recently found itself in hot water amid allegations that it has been selling illegal products containing an ingredient derived from donkeys. The controversial ingredient in question is a gelatin made from donkey skin known as ejiao. The sale of ejiao has raised concerns among animal welfare advocates and has prompted a complaint to be filed against Amazon by the Center for Contemporary Equine Studies (CCES).


Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, has recently been accused of selling products that contain an ingredient derived from donkeys. This ingredient, known as ejiao, is a gelatin made from donkey skin. The sale of ejiao has sparked controversy and has led to a complaint being filed against Amazon by the Center for Contemporary Equine Studies (CCES). The CCES alleges that the sale of ejiao violates a California law prohibiting the sale of horse meat for human consumption, as donkeys are considered non-food animals under this law.

The complaint against Amazon comes as no surprise, as the online giant has previously faced fines for selling illegal products. In 2014, Amazon was fined for selling foie gras, a product derived from the liver of force-fed ducks or geese, which is banned in California. If found guilty of selling products containing ejiao, Amazon could once again face hefty fines.

The Controversy Surrounding Ejiao

Ejiao, the main ingredient in the products under scrutiny, has garnered significant attention due to its controversial production methods and the impact it has on donkey populations. Ejiao is a gelatin derived from the skin of donkeys and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. However, the demand for ejiao has skyrocketed in recent years, leading to a massive increase in donkey slaughter.

Ejiao: A Threat to Donkeys

One of the key concerns surrounding ejiao is the ethics and sustainability of its production. Donkeys, which are essential to the production of ejiao, are facing a severe population decline as a result of rampant slaughter. According to animal welfare groups, millions of donkeys are killed each year in barbaric conditions to meet the growing demand for ejiao. This has led to a significant threat to their welfare and survival.

Many of these donkeys are sourced from developing countries, where animal welfare laws are often lax, making them vulnerable to cruel treatment and exploitation. The lack of regulation and oversight in the ejiao industry has resulted in the mistreatment of these animals, further exacerbating the ethical concerns surrounding the trade.

The Impact of Ejiao on Communities

The demand for ejiao has had a profound impact on communities where donkeys are an integral part of daily life and livelihoods. In many developing countries, donkeys serve as beasts of burden, aiding in transportation, agriculture, and other essential tasks. With the increase in demand for ejiao, many people in these communities are being forced to sell their donkeys to meet the market demand, leaving them without a vital source of income and transportation.

Furthermore, the ejiao industry has contributed to a significant increase in donkey theft, as criminals seek to profit from the lucrative trade. This has led to an escalation in violence and crime in affected communities. The social and economic consequences of the ejiao trade go beyond the exploitation of animals and have far-reaching implications for the well-being of entire communities.

Legal Ramifications for Amazon

The complaint filed by the CCES against Amazon alleges that the sale of products containing ejiao violates California law, which prohibits the sale of horse meat for human consumption. Donkeys are considered non-food animals under this law, making the sale of products containing ejiao illegal. If found guilty, Amazon could face fines similar to those it faced in the 2014 foie gras case.

The foie gras case serves as a precedent for the potential legal repercussions that Amazon may face. In that case, the online retailer was ordered to pay fines for selling foie gras products, which were deemed illegal in California. This incident highlights the importance of adhering to local regulations and laws when conducting business. Ignoring such laws can result in significant financial penalties and damage to a company's reputation.

The Role of Amazon in the Ejiao Trade

As one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, Amazon plays a crucial role in the ejiao trade. The company provides a platform for sellers to market and distribute their products, including those containing ejiao. While sellers are responsible for ensuring that their products comply with local laws, Amazon has the obligation to monitor and regulate the products sold on its platform.

The allegations against Amazon raise questions about the company's responsibility to ensure that illegal and unethical products are not sold on its platform. As a global leader in e-commerce, Amazon has the power and influence to make a positive impact on industries and the environment. By taking a proactive approach to monitoring and regulating the products it sells, Amazon can set the standard for responsible online retailing.

The Need for Stricter Regulations

The controversy surrounding the sale of products containing ejiao highlights the need for stricter regulations and oversight in the ejiao industry. The lack of regulation has allowed the exploitation of donkeys and has contributed to their decline in numbers. Governments, both in consumer countries and countries where donkeys are sourced, must take action to address the ethical concerns surrounding the ejiao trade.

In addition to stricter regulations, consumer awareness is paramount in effecting change. By making informed choices and refusing to support products derived from unethical practices, consumers can drive demand for more responsible alternatives. Companies like Amazon also have a duty to educate consumers about the products they sell and the ethical implications associated with them.


The allegations against Amazon regarding the sale of products containing ejiao highlight the broader ethical concerns surrounding the ejiao trade. The impact on donkey populations, the exploitation of animals, and the social and economic consequences for communities cannot be ignored. As consumers, we have the power to drive change by making informed choices and demanding more responsible practices from retailers. Additionally, companies like Amazon have a responsibility to monitor and regulate the products on their platforms to ensure compliance with local laws and ethical standards. The ejiao controversy serves as a reminder that our purchasing decisions have far-reaching implications and that we must be conscious of the ethical and environmental consequences of the products we buy.

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