US Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) reintroduced the Ejiao Act Tuesday in the House of Representatives to ban the sale and trade of ejiao (donkey-hide gelatin) products in the United States.
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 decimated in a few years.
The growing market for ejiao imperils donkey populations around the world and 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, 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.
“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. Congress is taking action to halt all importation of those products into this country,” said Emily Dulin, chief executive officer of Brooke USA, the lead animal welfare organization working with Rep. Beyer’s office to build support for the bill. “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.”
“We should act immediately and help shut down this illicit trade that leads to substantial harm to humans and animals worldwide,” added Dulin, who has been working at the national and global levels for many years with Brooke: Action for Working Horses & Donkeys on halting the illegal donkey hide trade and advocating for protection laws for working equines.
“The ejiao trade is senseless and poses grave risks to donkeys around the world,” said Joanna Grossman, PhD, equine program director and senior policy advisor for the farmed animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute. “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.”
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 to produce 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.
“The ejiao trade poses a significant animal welfare threat that must be addressed,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Within the United States, we are witnessing 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.”
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 approximately $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 last three years, Brooke USA has been working with Amazon to ban the sale of ejiao on the global platform yet, unfortunately, the online giant has been unresponsive. In February, the nonprofit Center for Contemporary Equine Studies sued Amazon, claiming that the e-commerce giant is violating California animal welfare law by selling items containing ejiao. The case is pending.
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” in lieu of “donkey.”
Brooke USA Foundation’s (BrookeUSA.org) mission is to significantly improve the health, welfare and productivity of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people who depend on them for survival worldwide. We are committed to sustainable economic development by reducing poverty, increasing food security, ensuring access to water, providing a means to education, and raising basic standards of living through improved equine health and welfare. We accomplish this by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need.
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.
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