The island of Santorini off the coast of Greece loves the tourists who visit on a daily basis, enjoying the spectacular scenery and Greek culture of the region.
But officials want them to stop harming the region’s donkeys.
It’s been a long standing tradition that visitors ride up the island’s infamous steep steps carried on a donkey’s back.
But most visitors don’t realize the harm they are causing these beautiful creatures.
Following our meeting with the mayor of #Santorini, we’re delighted to see that the steps have been significantly improved. 🙌
We’re looking forward to seeing the repaired shelters that will give donkeys the shade, rest and water they need. 👍 pic.twitter.com/1LzRrNb19W
— The Donkey Sanctuary (@DonkeySanctuary) March 27, 2019
But now an animal rights’ group called The Donkey Sanctuary is calling for a ban on the use of donkeys to make this hazardous journey, saying that tourists unsuspectingly cause damage to the donkeys’ health and well-being by using them as beasts of burden.
Part of the problem has been the rapid increase in tourists arriving via cruise ships who want to take part in the donkey riding tradition.
People who want to participate in the donkey ride tradition usually do not realize that this over-use of their services causes such health issues for the donkeys as exhaustion, saddle sores and spinal injuries.
The Donkey Sanctuary animal organization has launched a campaign called “In Their Hooves”, asking visitors to think twice prior to requesting a donkey ride up the very steep climb at Fira Port.
Greek island of #Santorini: GET OFF THE DONKEY!
Walk your big, lazy self up the hill or don’t go up it at all. Some are lame, saddle sores galore. pic.twitter.com/wTmhtSBKFy
— Ingrid Newkirk (@IngridNewkirk) August 6, 2018
There are other options for making the climb up the steep volcanic mountain terrain, including walking or taking a cable car.
The recently launched campaign shines a spotlight on the inhumane treatment of many donkeys and mules on the island.
In recent years they have been forced to carry increasingly heavy loads yet these quiet, gentle animals aren’t provided with enough shade or water throughout their day, causing a rapid deterioration in their health conditions.
Last fall, the government of Santorini instituted a ban on anyone weighing more than 220, about one-fifth of a donkey’s weight, from being able to ride them.
There has also been a limit placed on the number of arrivals from cruise ships visiting the island to not exceed 8,000.
Cruise line association representatives have promised to distribute informational leaflets to their passengers to raise awareness about donkey abuse taking place due to the traditional steep step rides.
Santorini officials say it’s not unreasonable to ask visitors to enjoy the culture and beauty of their gorgeous Greek island without harming its animal inhabitants.