The load on the backs of the Santorini donkeys is about to get lighter.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in Greece announced that their popular coastal donkey rides would be limited to tourists “weighing less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) or one-fifth of the donkey’s body weight,” the law states according to CNN.
As part of the new regulations established by the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, the animals “should not be loaded with excessive weight for their size, age or physical condition.”
Owners must also take responsibility for the donkeys’ condition, ensuring that their health, stables, workstations, and food/water supply are all well-maintained, clean, and free from infection.
“Under no circumstances should donkeys be used if they are unfit for work i.e., ill animal, injured, animals in an advanced pregnancy as well as animals with poor maintenance of hooves,” a section of the new law reads.
Tourists visiting the island have often relied on donkeys to transport them from the shoreline to Santorini’s main town, by way of the steep hills and through areas that vehicles cannot get through.
However, in recent years, the rise of obesity has reportedly taken a toll on the animals, to the point that locals have even started to crossbreed animals to create mules as a way to keep up with the influx of larger-sized tourists and demand for stronger animals, reports Greek City Times,
The decision to protect the animals came after a video surfaced online in July, showing the donkeys carrying overweight sightseers. Many activists complained afterward that the animals were being treated inhumanely, and as a result, suffering from spinal injuries and open wounds.
An online petition was also created, which claimed the donkeys were “forced to stand around in the sun in their own feces” and were whipped by the farmers to speed up while carrying “lazy” tourists who can allegedly walk the 30-minute trip or take a cable car.
Since its creation, it has garnered over 100,000 signatures.
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In August, The Donkey Sanctuary — who also created their own pledge site — met with the Greek government to discuss the animals’ health and safety.
After speaking with Mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos of Santorini — the petition was closed down, noting that Zorzos “pledged to improve the conditions for working equines on the Greek Island.”
But even with the legislation in effect to protect the donkeys from excessive work, animal rights activists are still unhappy with the new law, telling CNN it was a “throwaway” gesture and it “won’t prevent the daily suffering” endured by the animals.
“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,” PETA UK director of international programs, Mimi Bekhechi, told the outlet.
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