US reintroduces Ejiao Act to stem sales of donkey hide products

The Ejiao Act (H.R. 6021) would prohibit the transport, sale, and purchase of ejiao products, as well as donkeys and donkey hides for the production of ejiao.
© Brooke USA

An Act to ban the sale and trade of ejiao (donkey-hide gelatin) products has been reintroduced in the United States House of Representatives.

US Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) reintroduced the Ejiao Act last week. Originally introduced in 2021, the Ejiao Act (then H.R. 5203 and now H.R. 6021) would prohibit the transport, sale, and purchase of ejiao products, as well as donkeys and donkey hides for the production of ejiao. This legislation mirrors the penalties under the Lacey Act — widely regarded as one the strongest federal laws in the United States to protect a wide range of species from illegal trade and exploitation.

Brooke USA is the lead animal welfare organization working with Beyer’s office to build support for the bill. Chief executive officer Emily Dulin said more and more people in poorer countries are seeing the animals they depend on stolen and killed to meet the demand for the ejiao trade.

“Congress is taking action to halt all importation of those products into this country,” Dulin said.

“The international trade in donkey-hide gelatin products is leading to the mass slaughter of donkeys, resulting in widespread harm to impoverished communities around the world.”

Dulin has been working at national and global level for many years with working horse charity Brooke: Action for Working Horses & Donkeys, on halting the illegal donkey hide trade and advocating for protection laws for working equines.

Ejiao (pronounced “eh-gee-yow”) is a gelatin made from boiling the hides of donkeys. It is used primarily in cosmetics and traditional Chinese medicines. Despite little scientific evidence of its purported health benefits, demand for ejiao is increasing dramatically. At the current rate of 4.8 million hides consumed each year, half of the world’s donkeys could be gone in a few years.

Ejiao remains largely unknown to most American consumers, yet the United States is the third-largest importer of products containing ejiao, after Hong Kong and Japan, with about $12 million in annual imports each year. China remains the leading consumer of ejiao in the world. Some companies — notably eBay — have prohibited the sale of ejiao. But others, including Amazon, continue to sell the gelatin. For the past three years, Brooke USA has been working with Amazon to ban the sale of ejiao on the global platform, but it said “the online giant has been unresponsive”.

In February, the nonprofit Center for Contemporary Equine Studies sued Amazon, claiming it is violating California animal welfare law by selling items containing ejiao. The case is pending.

The growing market for ejiao imperils donkey populations around the world. It has spurred a cruel global trade that causes tremendous animal suffering and severely impacts communities that rely on donkeys for survival. Donkeys fetch water from miles away, take kids to school, assist in construction and farming, transport goods and produce to market, and even carry the elderly to the hospital. To meet the demand for ejiao from China and other countries, some donkeys are stolen from their owners and transported long distances in overcrowded trailers without food, water, or adequate rest. Infections or broken limbs are left untreated, and those who die in transport are often skinned on the spot — their remains discarded by the side of the road. Those who do survive are sometimes bludgeoned to death at journey’s end.

Joanna Grossman, PhD, equine program director and senior policy advisor for the farmed animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute, said the “senseless” ejiao trade poses grave risks to donkeys around the world.

“There is no need for these products that entail substantial cruelty and confer no real health benefits. Last Congress, federal lawmakers passed vital legislation to clamp down on the inhumane shark fin trade; they now have an ideal opportunity to ensure that the United States is not contributing to the brutal trade in another animal body part — the donkey skins that are used to make ejiao. This legislation would have a tangible impact domestically while also setting a strong precedent for other nations to shut down ejiao sales.”

Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said that within the US, there has been a notable increase in the number of wild burros entering the slaughter pipeline “due to the federal government’s extensive roundup and removal policy and its incentivized adoption program”.

“This raises concerns that federally protected burros could be a target for slaughter in the ejiao trade. We are grateful to Representative Don Beyer for taking meaningful steps to protect domestic donkeys and wild burros alike.”

Consumers looking to avoid purchasing anything containing ejiao should read product information and ingredient lists carefully. Related terms include “donkey hide,” “donkey glue,” “donkey-hide gelatin,” “donkey skin plastic,” “donkey oil,” and “colla corii asini” (Latin for “donkey neck hide”), or iterations using “ass” instead of “donkey.”

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