Tourists in Santorini are being asked to reconsider taking donkey rides, particularly to make the 520-step journey up a cliffside path to the town of Fira.
There have been reports of donkeys suffering from spinal injuries, saddlesores and exhaustion after being forced to carry loads that are too heavy for them and make multiple journeys in 30-degree heat.
Following public outcry about overweight tourists using donkey taxis, CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) is backing The Donkey Sanctuary’s new campaign to protect working donkeys and mules in holiday hotspots.
The “In Their Hooves” campaign encourages travellers to stop and think before riding donkeys or mules, and assess whether they are being treated well.
This includes checking they have access to fresh water and shelter from the sun. The Donkey Sanctuary also advises that the animals should not have to carry loads of more than 100kg, whether they be luggage or people.
However, the charity must balance animal welfare with safeguarding the livelihoods of locals who make their money from donkeys and mules, while respecting that it is a part of traditional Greek culture.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with CLIA to launch our ‘In Their Hooves’ animation,” said Kate Ferguson, global programme manager at The Donkey Sanctuary.
“Both our organisations share a vision of sustainable tourism in Santorini; we believe that together we can encourage tourists to make sound choices while also supporting equine owners to sustain their income, which is so dependent on the use of working donkeys and mules, by providing training on mules and donkey care, handling and diet.”
Cruise passengers will be able to see the “In Their Hooves” video, which gives tips on how to be a responsible tourist when it comes to donkey taxis, on board all CLIA-member liners heading to Europe; information leaflets will also be available on board liners docking in Santorini.
“Over recent years we have had several complaints from cruise passengers about the way donkeys were being treated on islands such as Santorini: for example, where rides are offered on donkeys and mules that have been tethered for hours on end in the hot sun unable to access water,” said Tom Boardley, secretary general at CLIA Europe.
“We fully support The Donkey Sanctuary’s In Their Hooves Campaign and hope it will go some way to reassure our passengers that we care about animal welfare in destinations on our members’ cruises.”
During a trip in August 2018, Santorini’s mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos made commitments including improved access to water and shade, particularly in the main tourist area of Fira.
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