Do you know Donkey Meat Issues at Amazon in 2023? CINDY had no idea she was eating donkeys when she first tried the Artemisia Anti-Hemorrhage Formula nutritional supplements that she bought on Amazon. She assumed that the largest online retailer in the world had verified the bottle’s claims to be made of “100% pure, natural herbs” because she is a native of California and has been a vegetarian her entire life. But when she was reading the ingredient list on the bottle’s back, she came across “gelatin nigra,” which she had never seen before. She looked it up on Google and felt sick to her stomach.
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Millions of donkeys are killed and skinned each year to produce the ‘gelatin nigra’ that Cindy uses in her dietary supplement. The animal product, which is manufactured from donkey skin, is most widely known as “ejiao” or “donkey-hide gelatin.” According to a 2019 research by the advocacy group Donkey Sanctuary, it is so in demand due to its supposed health advantages that it is decimating the world’s donkey population and has resulted in increasingly cruel treatment of the animals. To satisfy their slaughter targets, workers in Tanzania are shown in a video beating donkeys with hammers. It isn’t herbal, Cindy, who requested to only be identified by her first name due to privacy concerns, claims that it is truly created with donkeys. Why would Amazon market such a horrible product?
Despite numerous petitions requesting that Amazon cease selling edible products containing ejiao, certain companies, like Walmart and eBay, have made a commitment to stop selling products that include this substance. According to a legal lawsuit made last week in California on behalf of the charity Center for Modern Horse Studies, Amazon’s continued selling of these donkey-based items is not only repugnant—it might even be against the law.
The Prohibition of Horse Slaughter and Selling of Horsemeat for Human Consumption Act is a mysterious California animal welfare legislation, according to the Center, and it is allegedly broken by Amazon’s distribution and sale of ejiao. The selling of horsemeat for human consumption is prohibited by the 1998 ballot initiative, known at the time of its approval as Proposition Six, on the grounds that horses, like dogs and cats, are not food animals and should get the same protections. The Center claims that the definition of horsemeat in the Act includes donkeys as well as other horses.
According to Frank Rothschild, director of the Institute for Modern Equine Studies, it is against the law to sell ejiao for human consumption in California because donkeys are considered equines. “We are a scientific organization, not a national advocacy group. As selling ejiao is against the law, we want the defendants to stop doing so, he claims. The law states that.
The center makes a compelling case, but Bruce Wagman, a lawyer who is not connected to the complaint and has 30 years of experience in animal law in California, questions whether a judge would accept it because the wording of the legislation gives an opportunity for interpretation. He claims that the applicable statute’s text does not really describe horsemeat. “But Proposition Six’s intent is unmistakably to stop the killing of horses, including donkeys, for human consumption. Period.”
Amazon must immediately stop selling ejiao, according to the complaint. The state of California may punish Amazon for each transaction if a judge ultimately concludes that it has broken the law. There has previously been regulatory pressure of this nature. Prosecutors in three California counties charged Amazon in 2018 with breaking a state law that forbade the sale of foie gras. In exchange for paying $100,000 in civil fines, Amazon agreed to stop selling the fatty goose liver in California.
At least 15 edible products that advertise the presence of donkeys were discovered when WIRED scraped more than 1,000 Amazon product search results using terms like “ejiao,” “donkey hide,” and “ass hide” to challenge the center’s assertions. These foods were marketed under names including Ejiao Slice, Ass Hide Glue Lumps, and Chinese Special Snack Seedless. While every item on the list was sold by a third party, we discovered that at least four of them could be sent from Amazon’s warehouses.
When customers try to buy things that are illegal in their state, Amazon’s website usually warns them and prevents the sale. We added these culinary items to an Amazon shopping cart and completed the purchase procedure to determine if Amazon would deliver them to a California location. We never came across any notices that the things couldn’t be transported to California. We tried to buy a lightbulb that complies with California state laws, but Amazon stopped us when we placed it in our cart. In the end, we were able to order many ejiao goods and deliver them successfully to a California location.
A request for comment from WIRED on the sale and delivery of goods containing donkey flesh to a California address was refused by Amanda Cruz, an Amazon spokesman. Cindy’s supplier of the supplement, NSD Herbal, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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Despite Amazon’s laws against the sale of unlawful or forbidden goods, it’s likely that the distribution of ejiao may have eluded the company’s content moderation if it were to be illegal. Amazon’s inadequate product controls have frequently drawn criticism. The Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation in 2019 and discovered that the website was selling thousands of dangerous and illegal items. The same year, a CNBC report revealed that Amazon was shipping baby formula that had gone bad. Also, WIRED discovered books on Amazon that promote dangerous and unproven treatments for autism.
“Amazon is a huge business with plenty of resources. According to Teresa Murray, head of the Consumer Watchdog Program at the nonprofit Public Interest Research Group, “with that position comes accountability, and if it seems like they aren’t adhering by state rules, then clearly they need to do better.” “Knowing the law is part of their job,”
10:50 AM, February 24, 2023, update: Bruce Wagman stated that although he has only exclusively practiced animal law in California for the past 18 years, he has actually been involved in the field in some capacity for the past 30 years. In order to reflect this information, we updated the article.