The fat-shamers of Santorini are donkeys, and this is not an insult flung to start a flamewar. No, they literally are donkeys, and their wordless suffering is an indictment of humanity’s selfishness.
The Greek island of Santorini is a popular tourist destination. Cruise ships bring as many as 1,000 visitors per day, and a lot of them take donkey rides. Janine Puhak wrote:
Claiming that the number of overweight tourists from the U.K., U.S. and Russia have only continued to increase in recent years, Help the Santorini Donkeys charity is now calling for a weight restriction for riders.
The Santorini donkeys are a big story at the moment, but not a new story. In the spring of 2013, animal rights groups were protesting, and even some of the cruise lines, who make their profits thanks in part to the rocky donkey rides, asked tourists to forego them. Travel advisor Donny B wrote:
The roughly 360 donkeys and mules that work as tourist “taxis” on the island are forced to climb up and back down a pathway with around 600 steep steps, making as many as seven trips a day between 9 o’clock in the morning and sunset. Often, the animals are required to carry tourists who, putting it bluntly, are obese and may weigh considerably more than the donkeys themselves.
One thing seems to have changed for the better. Reportedly, even in the busy season, a present-day donkey only gives four or five tourist rides per diem.
Two years after that news report, there was a sad event when a donkey killed a German tourist — but not during a ride. The woman was walking with friends, the day after her birthday, and died after being hit and trampled by the donkey, who happened to be in town with its owner.
In the now
The Sun reporter learned from Christina Kaloudi that while some donkey owners are good, others tend to work an animal almost to death and then drop it off at the Santorini Animal Welfare Association shelter, which she founded. Kaloudi said, “If they are not transporting tourists up the steps, they are moving building materials or transporting heavy bags of rubbish.”
The donkeys sustain spinal injuries and other orthopedic problems. Even a healthy donkey in its prime should only carry, 112 pounds, max. How many American or British or Russian adults meet that standard? Plus, it’s just generally an awful life for the beasts. In hot weather, with little or no shade or water, they carry obese strangers up and down cobbled steps. Hundreds of steps.
Changes across the board
And what are the people who rent out donkey rides supposed to do about it? They can hardly install weighing stations. That would attract far more negative attention than the plight of the donkeys, and probably lead quickly to international incidents of the hostile kind.
The donkey-owning entrepreneurs have been forced to breed their animals with more sturdy ones, which results in a need for more space and more food for each one, and higher costs to the owners. And they have to buy more saddles.
Saddles are already a problem, because when they don’t fit correctly, the skin is abraded and pretty soon there are open wounds, with all the attendant misery. While no one would claim that overweight tourists cause all a donkey’s problems, they sure don’t help.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “‘Obese’ tourists from US and UK blamed for crippling donkeys in Greece, activists say,” FoxNews.com, 07/31/18
Source: “Don’t ride the donkeys!,” MyGreeceTravelBlog.com, 04/12/13
Source: “Cruise passenger killed by donkey in Santorini,” AOL.co.uk, 10/09/18
Photo credit: Graeme Churchard (GOC53) on Visualhunt/CC BY