Overweight Tourists on Santorini Face Big Fines for Riding Donkeys

Donkeys on Santorini. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis, via Wikimedia Commons

SANTORINI – After Greek-American rock star Tommy Lee complained about animal cruelty in the use of donkeys on the popular island of Santorini that are used to carry tourists up hundreds of cliffside stairs, the government said overweight tourists riding them could be fined.

That would be as much as 30,000 euros ($33,402.60) Greek Agriculture Minister Makis Voridis said, according to the British newspaper The Sun in a report on the growing outcry from animal rights groups with donkey owners reacting furiously in opposition.

Animal rights charities in 2018 revealed that heavy and obese tourists were being carried up steep and narrow stairways on the island with the donkeys being a lucrative trade for owners although many of the animals had open wounds and were exhausted working long hours in often brutal heat with little shade or water.

A video revealed some of them being whipped and hit by their owners as they carried people across the island and showed the owners attacking peaceful animal rights activists carrying signs in protest.

The Greek government introduced legislation last year that made it illegal for the donkeys to carry anything or anyone weighing more than 15 stone (210 lbs.) or “one-fifth of their body weight,” but it wasn’t said whether the owners could be fined for animal abuse.

Lee, born to an American father of the same name and mother, Vassilikki “Voula” Papadimitriou, a Greek beauty queen who died in 2012, wrote an open letter to Greek authorities asking them to crack down on the “sicking abuse” of the strained donkeys.

It wasn’t said how the fines would be enforced on an island where the donkeys bring in a lot of money from tourists on one of the world’s most popular vacation spots or how it would be determined whether someone is overweight.

A spokesman for Help the Santorini Donkeys charity also claims that animals should carry “no more than 20 percent of their own body weight,” the paper said, adding that: “The obese and overweight tourists, combined with the lack of shade and water as well as the sheer heat and 568 cobbled steps, is what is causing such a problem.

“There should be a weight restriction. With donkeys it is should be no more than eight stone (112 pounds,) but how would that be imposed and who would be there to make sure that happened?”