Outcry of donkeys carrying ‘overweight’ tourists prompts cruises to back campaign

A major cruise organisation is backing a new Donkey Sanctuary campaign to protect working equines in holiday hotspots.

After outcry over “donkey taxis” being used by tourists who are often of inappropriate weight to ride them, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is supporting In Their Hooves, which asks holidaymakers to stop and think before they take donkey or mule rides.

The Donkey Sanctuary has created a video asking tourists to think about whether the working donkeys and mules are being given appropriate basic care, including enough water and shelter from the sun, before they decide whether or not to ride them. The video also asks tourists to consider whether the animals are being treated well by their owners, or being made to carry inappropriate loads – whether luggage or tourists.

The campaign follows a partnership between the Donkey Sanctuary and the Santorini authorities, working on increasing awareness of animal welfare while protecting the livelihoods of the animals’ owners.

“We’ve seen great progress through our working partnership with the Santorini municipality,” said Barbara Massa, the charity’s regional director for Europe.

“They have helped us to deliver training to local enforcement bodies as well as supporting a revision of the existing code of practice for working equines in Santorini, which will be discussed during the next visit.

“We are excited about the launch the In Their Hooves video and we hope visitors to Santorini are able to make informed decisions about the welfare of working equines they will see there. We will continue to work with the municipality, providing training to equine health service providers and also the animal owners, all of whom are critical to improving the working conditions and practices on the island.”

More than two-thirds of European cruise companies that dock at Santorini are members of CLIA, the cruise industry’s biggest trading association. Passengers will be able to see the In Their Hooves video on board liners heading to Europe and information leaflets will be available on liners docking in Santorini.

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CLIA Europe secretary general Tom Boardley said: “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. We fully support the Donkey Sanctuary’s campaign and hope it will go some way to reassure our passengers that we care about animal welfare in destinations on our members’ cruises.”

The Donkey Sanctuary has been working with Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF) and visiting Santorini to deliver joint equine outreach since 2000. During a welfare assessment trip in August 2018, Santorini’s mayor Anastasios-Nikolaos Zorzos made welfare commitments, including improved access to water and shade, particularly in the main tourist area of Fira.

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