Greece is breeding a new kind of donkey to cope with overweight British tourists wanting to ride them, it has emerged.
Donkeys on the picturesque island of Santorini are being crippled by carrying overweight holidaymakers up the steep cobbled hills.
Now locals are starting to breed their donkeys with stronger mules so it is easier for them to carry fatter tourists.
A spokesman for charity Help the Santorini Donkeys told the Mirror: ‘They’re having to resort to using cross-bred mules, as the donkeys just aren’t strong enough.
‘It’s recommended animals carry no more than 20% of their body weight.
‘Obese and overweight tourists combined with the lack of shade and water, heat and cobbled steps is what’s causing such a problem.’
He added: ‘There should be a weight restriction. With donkeys it should be no more than eight stone, but how would that be imposed?’
Santorini is a popular stop off on cruise ships.
For decades, the donkeys have transported tourists up its hills but campaigners say the animals are mistreated.
As well as being forced to carry heavier loads, they have open wounds from ill-fitting saddles.
Witnesses claim donkeys make four to five journeys up the 500-plus steps to capital Fira town.
Santorini Animal Welfare Association founder Christina Kaloudi, 42, moved to the island from Athens 10 years ago.
She said since then, the number of overweight US, Russian and British tourists has trebled, adding: ‘Donkeys are pretty much in work year-round.
‘They are made to work in terrible conditions without adequate water, shelter or rest, and then I find them tied outside my shelter, barely alive.’
UK-based The Donkey Sanctuary has called on the Greek government to meet with them to discuss the welfare of the animals.
They said: ‘With the holiday season coming into full swing, exhausted donkeys and mules are spending long days in the scorching sun, carrying tourists or heavy and harmful rubbish loads, with little to no water, food or shade.
‘With this disappointing evidence, now is the time to increase our efforts to support the needs of these diligent donkeys and mules. ‘The Donkey Sanctuary is committed to bringing about sustainable change.’
Britain is now the most obese nation in Western Europe, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Around 63% of UK adults are overweight, including one-in-four Britons who are now clinically obese as they have a body mass index above 30.
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