A Greek island has slapped a ban on overweight tourists from riding donkeys over reports of shocking spinal injuries.
Pictures of obese holidaymakers on Santorini climbing narrow steps on top of the animals have prompted lawmakers to act.
Animal rights activists claim the animals are being forced to carry heavy loads and work for long hours, seven days a week with no shelter, rest or water.
They say the donkeys are left with spinal injuries and open wounds as a result.
Now, Greece’s Ministry of Rural Development and Food has published a new set of regulations regarding donkeys’ wellbeing that state donkeys giving tourists rides in Santorini should not carry any loads heavier than 100kg, or one fifth of their weight.
The bulletin states: ‘Under no circumstances should animals be used that are unfit for work i.e., ill animal, injured, animals in an advanced pregnancy as well as animals with poor maintenance of hooves.
‘The animals should be given appropriate and adequate food and fresh drinking water daily, into containers which cannot be contaminated and are cleaned at least once a day.’
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The bulletin adds: ‘Working equines should not be loaded with excessive weight for their size, age or physical condition. The load cannot exceed the weight of 100kg, or one fifth of their body weight.’
Elisavet Chatzi, 45, a volunteer from Athens who took part in protests in Santorini over donkeys’ treatment there earlier this year, said: ‘It’s a very big step, I think all our hard work has paid off.
‘The situation in Santorini has been going on for many years and it cannot be resolved in one day.
‘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.
‘The next day after the bulletin was released, I was told a tourist had been carried up the hill by three different donkeys, so as not to exhaust them.’
However, other campaigners allege that nothing has changed on the island despite the new rules.
Maria Skourta, 42, the leader of the Athens branch of Direct Action Everywhere, said: ‘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.’