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Millennium Post

Lightening the ride

Lightening  the ride

Justice often comes in strange ways and, when it comes to helpless animals, so much the better. Indeed, docile animals have often been subjected to untold misery. The owners, who make the proverbial buck off them, could not care less. So, it comes as so much of a relief that a burden has been lifted from the shoulders of Greece's donkey population. The country has banned "overweight" tourists from riding the animals on the popular island of Santorini after activists complained that they were suffering from spinal injuries. Sightseers often pay to ride donkeys up steep slopes from the shore to the island's main town, but transporting heavier travellers has taken its toll on the creatures and prompted anger from campaign groups. People wishing to ride the donkeys will now have to weigh less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds), or one-fifth of the donkey's body weight. The animals "should not be loaded with a weight excessive in size, age or physical condition," the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food instructed. The travel guidelines were circulated to island regions after the department received "multiple complaints and publications on the living conditions and well being of domestic animals" over the busy summer. Santorini has steep terrain and donkeys are often required to travel through pathways too narrow for cars. Activists have also complained about their treatment by their owners. Footage of overweight tourists riding the animals prompted a backlash on social media in July and a petition calling for an end to their use as transportation received more than 100,000 signatures. In a 'Throwaway gesture' Activist group The Donkey Sanctuary said on its website in June that it was "dismayed" by the conditions donkeys are kept in, before meeting with representatives from the island in August. In addition to the weight limits, the guidelines insist that the animals are exercised once a day for at least half an hour and have a continuous supply of drinking water. "Donkeys can still be forced to carry a person weighing 15 stone 10 pounds (100 kilograms) up more than 500 steep steps four to five times a day," said Mimi Bekhechi, PETA UK's director of international programmes. Santorini, which sits atop a spectacular dormant volcano caldera and is renowned for incredible sunsets, has seen tourism increase dramatically in recent years, thanks to its popularity with cruise ship tourists. But this ban ought to serve as a healthy precedent for countless "tongawallas" in so many Indian towns. For years, heartless owners whip emaciated horses to run the extra mile and more. When they are fed or allowed some rest, remains a mystery. An end must be put to their misery.

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