A tiny Greek island has banned overweight tourists from riding on donkey tours.
In Santorini, donkeys have been a part of daily life for centuries. While most places use trucks and vans to move stuff from place to place, the island’s near complete lack of roads and ubiquitous narrow walkways makes the use of conventional vehicles difficult. Instead, residents rely on one of man’s oldest friends to move goods from place to place: the humble donkey.
Donkeys have become such a calling card for the island that various tour operators offer donkey-ridden tours of Santorini. Unfortunately for the donkeys, the humanity’s expanding waistlines have made for some overburdened beasts.
Compounding the problem, according to local animal rights activists, is the fact that those tour operators are not treating their donkeys humanely. They’re worked to the bone, 7 days per week, without rest, shelter, or water.
The combination of hefty tourists and poor living conditions has resulted in donkeys with horrific spinal injuries. Some even sported open wounds after their harnesses were removed.
It got so bad that Greece’s Ministry of Rural Development and Food was forced to issue a bulletin to Santorini’s donkey owners that banned overloading their animals. The new rules require that all donkeys cannot carry loads greater than 100 kg (220 lbs) or one-fifth their body weight.
A ceiling of 220 pounds outlaws many tourists from being taken on tour guides, and operators are understandably upset.
The bulletin also provided new rules for donkey care, including rules for providing food and water daily as well as not forcing animals to work if they are sick, injured, or in advanced pregnancy.
Activists are hailing the move as a victory for Santorini’s donkey population after years of protests. However, some activists are saying the new rules are not being enforced and that little has changed on the island.
"While this [the bulletin] means they will stop carrying fat tourists, the donkeys are still forced to carry cement, appliances, and all sorts of heavy weights,” said Maria Skourta, leader of Athens branch of Direct Action Everywhere.