A new law in Greece bans tourists weighing more than 100kg from riding on its iconic donkeys.
A new law in Greece bans tourists weighing more than 100kg from riding on its iconic donkeys.

Weight ban on tourists riding iconic donkeys

TURNS out overweight luggage isn't the only weight issue to worry about while traveling.

Greece has just passed an unusual new law that imposes a ban on tourists deemed overweight on the island of Santorini.

Specifically, the law restricts people who weigh more than 100kg from riding on donkeys, an iconic and very popular activity on the holiday island.

It is one of a suite of new laws by Greece's Ministry of Rural Development and Food that aims to protect Santorini's donkeys.

And it follows outcries by animal rights groups, who say the donkeys have been suffering spinal injuries, open sores and stress as a result of carrying tourists, made worse with obesity on the rise.

The animals are commonly used for long rides up the steep coastal cliff to hilly Santorini's capital of Fira.

And they're made to work long hours, seven days a week during the hot and very busy peak tourism season, without shelter, water and rest, activists claimed.

In a statement earlier this year, the animal welfare group The Donkey Sanctuary said it was "dismayed by the conditions" its staff saw in Santorini earlier this year.

"Exhausted donkeys and mules are spending long days in the scorching sun, carrying tourists or heavy and harmful rubbish loads, with little to no water, food or shade," the group said.

Facebook groups and online petitions sprung up over the European summer calling for boycotts to Santorini rides and more protections for the animals.

A change.org petition, called "Stop Animal Abuse of Donkeys and Horses in Santorini", has attracted more than 108,000 signatures.

"Despite the fact that it's only a 30 minute walk … or two minutes by cable car, these donkeys are used as cruel transportation for people who want the 'real Greek' experience," the petition said.

"These donkeys are forced to stand around in the sun in their own faeces 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 cable car.

"In addition, the farmers give them lashings to make them go faster up the path when carrying tourists."

According to the new laws, donkeys on rides in Santorini should not carry loads heavier than 100kg, or one fifth of their weight.

"The owners of working (donkeys) should ensure that the animals' level of health is high," a government statement read.

"Under no circumstances should be used animals unfit for work ie, ill animal, injured, animals in an advanced pregnancy as well as animals with poor maintenance of hoofs.

"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.

"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."