Animal rights activists claim that overweight tourists are hurting donkeys on the Greek island Santorini.
The mesmerizing island with famous white villas attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The narrow streets and hundreds of stairs make it impossible to drive, though.
So, the tourists often rent donkeys, and the animals either carry their bags or, in worse cases, the tourists. It started to become an issue since the tourists were obese and harming the poor animals.
Santorini Donkeys suffer spinal injuries and open wounds
Help the Santorini Donkeys group is one of many organizations fighting for animal rights. In their statement, the group claims:
"The obese and overweight tourists, combined with the lack of shade and water as well as the sheer heat and 568 cobbled steps, is what is causing such a problem."
The spokesperson from this organization explained:
"There should be a weight restriction."
"With donkeys, it should be no more than eight stone, but how would that be imposed and who would be there to make sure that happened?"
The same spokesperson added that the animals shouldn't carry more than 20 percent of their own body weight.
Though the island is small, it's trendy and well-known, so when Help the Santorini Donkeys group started a petition, it soon received over 70.000 signatures.
The petition reads:
"These donkeys are forced to stand around in the sun in their own feces at the side of the path and all they do is go up and down, up and down, carrying people who are too lazy to just walk or take the cable car. In addition, the farmers give them lashings to make them go faster up the path when carrying tourists, etc."
However, the issues don't end with overworked donkeys.
Cross-breeding donkeys with mules
Since the donkeys are already working too hard and aren't strong enough to hold the obese tourists, the locals are cross-breed their donkeys with mules.
During the season, between May and October, over 1000 tourists arrive each day. Santorini resident Christina Kaloudi moved from Athens to the island a decade ago. She started the Santorini Animal Welfare Association to help the donkeys.
According to Kaloudi, even though she's seen the number of overweight tourists rise over the last ten years, the donkeys have other problems to worry about in addition to obese visitors.
Once the summer's over, the island is busy preparing for the next season. And Kaloudi says that this just gives the poor donkeys even more work.
"The holiday season on islands is now a lot longer than it used to be, meaning that the donkeys are pretty much in work the whole year-round."
"If they are not transporting tourists up the steps, they are moving building materials or transporting heavy bags of rubbish."
Some owners treat the donkeys properly, while others are ruthless. Kaloudi told Daily Mail:
"There are some good owners out there that follow the code but generally, donkeys are worked into the ground and then disposed of when their working lives are over."
"They are made to work in terrible conditions without adequate water, shelter, or rest and then I find them outside my shelter, barely alive."
The animals work in inhumane conditions
Donkeys from Santorini are getting help from animal lovers world wide.
The Donkey Sanctuary rescuing UK donkeys from neglect and abuse works with 35 countries worldwide. They care for over 6000 donkeys, and they are concerned about the living requirements of the animals on the Greek island:
"Poor quality saddles and bridles are often used, and safety guidelines are regularly ignored, placing tourists at risk of injury. Donkeys can be made to travel long distances in harsh climates and tough environments."
These lovely and intelligent animals spend hours without protection from the sun, without food, and even water. The farmers even beat them to make them go faster up the path while carrying obese tourists.
As Kaludi said, these are resilient animals, but they have their limits. She also stated:
"They will keep going for as long as they can, so when they come to me in this state, I have the utmost respect for them."
Obesity is a global issue, but it's not affecting just humans. If you care about animals, use your feet, and don't add salt to their wounds.
Even better, lose weight if you're heading to Santorini any time soon. It's good for you, and you won't break a poor animal's back.