PETRA, JORDAN - A just-released PETA expose of the tourism industry in Petra, Jordan, reveals that it's business as usual to beat, whip, and severely overload many of the 1,300 donkeys, camels, mules, and horses forced to haul visitors on their backs up and down the 900 steps to the monastery in blistering heat without shade or water or on 10-mile treks in overladen carriages. The video footage shows men and boys continuously striking exhausted animals with plastic pipes and whips in order to keep them moving. Blood-stained chains and ropes are shown digging into the animals' necks, and camels have open, fly-infested wounds caused by men aggressively yanking on their bridles to force them onward.
One man is shown viciously kicking a donkey in the stomach - causing a person standing nearby to recoil in disgust - when the animal shied away from carrying more tourists after having just finished a tour. The groups say that the abuse goes unpunished and the law goes unenforced: A sign erected (under public pressure) by the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority advises visitors to send cruelty-to-animals complaints to an e-mail address that doesn't work. According to the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities, over 160,000 Americans visited the country in 2017. Now a campaign has been launched to alert them and other foreign visitors to stay away unless action is taken to stop animal abuse at the site.
"Weak, wounded, exhausted animals in Petra are hit and whipped, and most are deprived of water and shade, despite the desert heat," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA Asia is urgently calling on the royal family and the government to help these animals by replacing them with golf carts so that tourists can appreciate Petra's rich history without witnessing cruelty to animals - which ruins their trip and blights the country's reputation."
PETA - whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to abuse in any way" - notes that multiple times a day, the mules and donkeys are forced to make the climb up to the monastery and back down again and the horses must pull carriages on the grueling treks through the ancient city. Between rides, the animals are tied up so tightly that they can't even lie down but instead are made to stand in the sun until the next customer comes along. Often, no veterinary care appears to be provided, and many animals seem to suffer visibly from lameness, colic, and exhaustion.