Overweight Tourists Told To Get Off The Backs Of Greek Donkeys
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
A weight has been lifted from the backs of Greece’s working donkey population.
The country has banned "overweight" tourists from riding the animals on the popular island of Santorini, after activists complained that they were suffering spinal injuries – the donkeys that is.
Footage of plus-sized tourists riding the animals prompted a backlash on social media in July, and a petition calling for an end to their use as transportation received more than 100,000 signatures.
Sightseers pay to ride donkeys up steep slopes from the shore to the island's main town, but transporting heavier travellers has taken its toll on the creatures and prompted anger from campaign groups.
Under new regulations, people wishing to ride the donkeys will now have to weigh less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) -- or one-fifth of the donkey's body weight. The animals "should not be loaded with a weight excessive in size, age or physical condition," the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food instructed.
The guidelines were circulated after the department received "multiple complaints on the living conditions and well-being of domestic animals" over the summer.
Santorini has steep terrain, and donkeys are often required to travel through pathways too narrow for cars. Activists have also complained about their treatment by their owners.
The new guidelines insist that the animals are exercised once a day for at least half an hour and have a continuous supply of drinking water.
But animal rights group PETA told CNN the move is a "throwaway" gesture which "won't prevent the daily suffering that these donkey endure."
"Donkeys can still be forced to carry a person weighing 15 stone 10 pounds (100 kilograms) up more than 500 steep steps four to five times a day," said Mimi Bekhechi, PETA UK's director of international programs.
Santorini, which sits atop a spectacular dormant volcano caldera and is renowned for incredible sunsets, has seen tourism increase dramatically in recent years, thanks to its popularity with cruise ship tourists.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.