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Greece bans 'heavy' tourists using donkeys

(CNN) — A burden has been lifted from the shoulders of Greece’s working donkey population.

The country has banned “overweight” tourists from riding the animals on the favorite island of Santorini, after activists complained they were suffering spinal injuries.

Sightseers often pay to ride donkeys up steep slopes from the shore to the island’s main town, but transporting heavier travelers has had its toll on the creatures and prompted anger from campaign groups.

People desperate to ride the donkeys will will have to weigh significantly less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) — or one-fifth of the donkey’s bodyweight.

The animals “shouldn’t be packed with a weight excessive in proportions, age or health,” the Greek Ministry of Rural Food and Development instructed.

The guidelines were circulated to island regions following the department received “multiple complaints and publications on the living conditions and wellbeing of domestic animals” on the busy summer period.

Santorini includes a hilly terrain and donkeys must travel through pathways too narrow for cars often. Activists have complained about their treatment by their owners also.

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Footage of overweight tourists riding the animals prompted a backlash on social media marketing in July, and a petition calling for a finish with their use as transportation received a lot more than 100,000 signatures.

‘Throwaway gesture’

Activist group The Donkey Sanctuary said on its website in June that it had been “dismayed” by the conditions donkeys are kept in, in August before ending up in representatives from the island.

In addition to the weight limits, the rules insist that the animals are exercised once each day for at the very least around 30 minutes and have a continuing supply of normal water.

But animal rights group PETA told CNN the move is really a “throwaway” gesture which “won’t avoid the daily suffering these donkey endure”.

“Donkeys can be forced to transport an individual weighing 15 stone 10 pounds (100 kilograms) up a lot more than 500 steep steps four to five times each day,” said Mimi Bekhechi, PETA UK’s director of international programs.

Santorini, which sits atop a magnificent dormant volcano caldera and is renowned for incredible sunsets, has seen tourism upsurge in modern times dramatically, because of its popularity with cruise liner tourists.