Animal rights group urges tourists to boycott Jordan’s Petra

PETA cites cruel treatment of pack animals used to haul sightseers up to ancient temple; demands motorized vehicles be used instead

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture of a donkey rider whipping the animal, at the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. (Courtesy PETA)
Screen capture of a donkey rider whipping the animal, at the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. (Courtesy PETA)

A leading animal rights group on Tuesday called on Israeli and other tourists to stay away from one of Jordan’s most famous attractions, citing the treatment of pack animals at the site, which it said are whipped, overworked, and denied proper water and veterinary treatment.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued what it called a “travel advisory” against visiting the ancient city of Petra, a sprawling archaeological site of tombs and monuments carved into rose-hued desert sandstone some 2,000 years ago by traders known as Nabataeans.

Noting that many tourists travel to Jordan via Israel, the group said the warning came as a follow-up to an investigation it published last week looking into the abuse of over 1,300 donkeys, camels and mules that serve the archaeological attraction.

The animals are “routinely beaten and whipped to force them to haul visitors on their backs or in carriages in blistering heat without shade or water,” PETA said.

“PETA is calling on residents of Israel to stay away from Petra until these exhausted animals are replaced with modern conveyances, such as golf carts, so that tourists can appreciate the city’s rich history without witnessing cruelty to animals, which can ruin a trip and blight the country’s reputation,” urged PETA Vice President of International Campaigns Jason Baker.

Donkeys standing in the sun at the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. (Courtesy PETA)

“It’s an outright disgrace that weak, wounded animals in Petra are being hit and whipped and denied water and shade in the desert heat every single day,” Baker declared.

Some of the work involves climbing 900 steps to reach the top of the site, and then down again, or pulling carriages on 10-kilometer trips through the desert several times a day.

“Between rides, the animals are tied so tightly that they can’t even lie down and are forced to stand in the sun until the next customer comes along,” the PETA statement said. “Often, the animals appear to be receiving no veterinary or farrier care, and many suffer visibly from apparent lameness, colic, and exhaustion.”

Although a sign at the site from the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority asks tourists to report any cruelty they see, the email address it provides does not work, PETA said.

The group said it had contacted hundreds of travel agencies about the abuse and the companies responded by promising to not promote trips to Petra until motorized vehicles are used instead of the animals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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