Greece urged to help Santorini donkeys forced to carry obese tourists

The Greek Government has been urged to act upon the cruel treatment of donkeys in Santorini, as some of the animals are being forced to carry ridiculously heavy loads. 

Images released by a campaign group show exhausted donkeys and mules being forced to work in the scorching sun, carrying heavy tourists and harmful rubbish loads, reportedly with no water, food or shade. 

Animal welfare advocates are due to meet with the Mayor of Santorini after expressing concerns that the island's donkeys are suffering under the weight of heavy tourists, overloaded baggage and 12-hour days.

A team from UK-based animal welfare group The Donkey Sanctuary visited the island, and spokeswoman Dawn Vincent told Newshub that while the donkeys are relatively healthy, they work under harsh conditions.

"They need access to water, shelter, food and rest - and there needs to be a pragmatic approach to the type of passenger they give rides to," she said.

"There are some people that are probably too large to ride the animals."

With obesity on the rise, the loads are proving simply too much to handle.

"The typical weight guidelines that we would give for a donkey working in the UK is about 50kg," Ms Vincent said.

Some of the donkeys have reportedly been left with spinal injuries and open wounds from ill-fitting saddles.

"If you've got a large passenger and they're sitting at a funny angle, it can cause all sorts of uncomfortable pain for the animal."

Dawn Vincent says something has to change, and her team are due to meet with the Mayor of Santorini.

"One of the things we need to take into consideration is that these donkeys and mules are supporting people's livelihoods on the island, so we're looking for a pragmatic way where we can improve the welfare of those animals.

Reports suggest breeders beginning to cross-breed mules, because donkeys simply aren't strong enough to take the loads they're forced to carry. 

The group's first step will be to call an urgent meeting with the Greek government to discuss the welfare of the animals, offering them support and technical expertise to "immediately address welfare needs". 

Many of the tourists visiting Santorini are from the UK, which is now the most obese nation in Western Europe, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).