Greek officials recently published a bulletin detailing rules that prohibit larger tourists from riding on donkeys, following extensive complaints from animal rights groups that detailed the allegedly inhumane conditions donkeys in the island of Santorini go through.
According to People, the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food took action about three months after an online video emerged, showing donkeys carrying overweight tourists in Santorini. This drew the attention of animal rights activists, who claimed that the animals are being overworked by carrying such heavy loads, which in turn leads to spinal injuries and open wounds.
As shown in a Change.org petition that attracted over 100,000 signatures since it was launched last year, activists previously alleged that Santorini’s donkeys were subjected to harsh conditions as handlers whipped the animals in order for them to move faster, and were forced to “stand around in the sun in their own feces” when not carrying people who are “too lazy” to take a 30-minute walk or a cable car.
“You can see the sadness in their eyes. Animals are not at our disposal, nor are they for our use,” read the petition.
In the light of the aforementioned complaints, the new regulations posted on Wednesday by the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food now prohibit donkeys from carrying people who weigh more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms), or one-fifth the weight of the average donkey. As cited by Metro UK, the rules also prohibit handlers from using donkeys that are unfit to work due to sickness, injury, advanced pregnancy, or poor hoof maintenance, and require that the animals be given “adequate food and fresh drinking water” on a daily basis.
You'll have to carry yourself around Santorini, after Greece moved to ban overweight tourists from hitching rides astride donkeys. https://t.co/DH1A1DEGTY
— Sunday Times (@SundayTimesZA) October 13, 2018
Commenting on the new rules prohibiting Santorini’s donkeys from carrying heavier people, Athens-based animal rights activist Elisavet Chatzi was quoted by Metro UK as saying that the rules represent a “very big step” toward ensuring that the animals’ well-being is properly taken care of. She also suggested that change was evident just one day after the bulletin was published, as she observed how handlers used three different donkeys to carry one tourist, in an effort to ensure that the animals wouldn’t get fatigued.
“The situation in Santorini has been going on for many years and it cannot be resolved in one day,” said Chatzi.
“We have won our fight because of the international media attention on the topic. No one could ever believe that new regulations would be set.”
Although the new regulations appear to be making a difference, as Chatzi suggested, Metro UK noted that there are other animal rights activists who believe the Greek government needs to take further steps. Maria Skourta, who leads Direct Action Everywhere’s Athens branch, pointed out how donkeys, in general, are oftentimes forced to carry other types of heavy loads and not just people.
“Our goal is not to improve the lives of slaves, [but] to free them entirely,” Skourta commented.