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Animal welfare under scrutiny in Petra after reports of abuse

By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - Jan 18,2018 - Last updated at Jan 18,2018

People of Petra are keen to cooperate with authorities and organisations to end mistreatment of animals, a local community representative said (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — People of Petra are keen to cooperate with authorities and organisations to end mistreatment of animals, a local community representative said. 

Meanwhile, authorities pledged intensifying efforts to improve the conditions of animal welfare at the ancient rose-red city, stressing that animal mistreatment is a punishable crime according the Jordanian Penal Law, an official statement said. 

The issue was raised after the BBC published a report saying that the animal rights group Peta had launched an international campaign to try end the mistreatment of animals working in Petra, 235km south of Amman.

The report included videos and photographs purportedly showing beating animals and exposing  wounds caused by unsuitable saddles and harnesses. 

Peta said donkeys, horses and camels are being beaten and forced to carry visitors in extreme heat without shade or water, according to the BBC.

“Our community values strongly refuse such mistreatment and that’s what we teach our children,” Abu Firas, a community leader from Petra,  told The Jordan Times Wednesday.

“Nevertheless, every community has its own disobedient individuals, mostly underage people,” Abu Firas told The Jordan Times.

“Even if my son abuses an animal, I will have no problem seeing him being punished,” the representative said, adding that authorities at the site should take action when they witness such acts.

Around 90 per cent of Um Sayhoun’s population (the village beside Petra where the locals live nowadays) depend on tourism as their only income, according to the representative.

The local warned against preventing this business — riding donkeys and camels to visit the site — as it is “the only income for hundreds of locals”.

A tourist guide, who preferred to remain unnamed, said: “Donkeys are the only means to carry water and goods up to the shops at the Monastery and other important must-see monuments in the site.”

UNESCO said that using motorised vehicles to replace animals would not be desirable there, according to BBC.

The majority of users commenting on the video posted on Peta’s Facebook page, called on tourists to stop riding the animals, so that locals will not be able make money out of this practice and abandon the business. 

Meanwhile, Jan Hindmarsh, a Facebook user wrote: “Stop making out that this only happens in Jordan. Animal cruelty happens in every country. You need the government to stop it.”

The Princess Alia Foundation in Jordan and the international animal charity, Four Paws, said they were happy to work with any group to improve animal welfare, according to the BBC. 

However, they noted that much has already been done much to improve the horses’ conditions at Petra by providing new stables and ensuring their owners have sufficient food, water and shelter, in addition to using lighter carriages and more animal-friendly harnesses and saddles. They nonetheless acknowledged that there is more to be done, according to the BBC report. 

Following a request from The Jordan Times, the Tourism Ministry released a statement saying “we followed the recently released reports claiming there are issues related to the mistreatment of working animals in Jordan”.

“Cruelty to animals is an issue that we, in Jordan, take extremely seriously, and it is a crime punishable by law (Penal Law article 472). Moreover, the teachings of Islam urge Muslims to treat animals humanely and with kindness. It also strongly enjoins handling them with compassion,” the statement said.

“The government has cooperated and continues to work with civil society organisations in raising awareness about animal protection and the proper and humane treatment of animals,” it continued. 

The ministry’s statement said that they would follow up on the issues to ensure that all violations are stopped and dealt with. 


“The ministry has also instructed the Tourism Police to step up its enforcement and monitoring of all matters related to the mistreatment of working animals,” the statement concluded.

22 users have voted.


I have just returned from Petra. I witnessed animals straining to carry two visitors at a time up steep steps, chains as bridles, animals in the sun with no water, sores on horses and donkeys, muzzles permenantly “dented” from bridles, some whipping, and an old man stabbing a donkey in the ribs with a sharp pole to get it moving. If we support the riding of these animals, we are complicit.

I visited Petra today and was miserable watching the way the carriage horses and donkeys were being treated. I watched horse after horse go by me taking lazy tourists back to the entrance. I watched one group get out of the carriage and the owner did not have any water for the horse!!! A guide who has been working there for many years said that the animals are still being abused and if you say something to them (as a local) they will just beat the animal more. I myself had to stop a young boy from hitting a donkey with a hose. The tourism police were there and never once did I see them talk to the animals’ owners about cooling off the animals or even giving them a basic necessity as water. These people are not only breaking Jordanian law they bring dishonor to the religion of Islam and are in violation of the Korans teachings.

Let's just stop exploiting these beautiful animals. Isn't it nice walking around? Great work PETA.

It's 2018, why do we still use animals for transportation? The treatment of these donkeys and horses says a lot about the 90% of people of Petra who use animals for a living. It's a disappointment.

Seeing cruelty to animals spoiled my trip to Petra. It's time for the Ministry of Tourism to generate jobs for these people that does not require animal abuse. Retire working animals to a sanctuary. They had enough.

Tourists need to stay off the backs of animals and the Ministry of Tourism should ban this industry. With so many great modes of transport available to us, there really is no need to continue this!

It's too bad you didn't include the video in your story. I hope you will correct that. Here is the video and photos.

Please let me know what action is taken to improve the lives of the working horses, donkeys and camels in Petra. jordan. Peta is making an international campaign to solve this problem.

I as an animal lover would like to know this problem is solved.

Kindly reply to my email address : [email protected]

Brunila, Goa India
2.07 pm. 20-01-2018

I applaud the Jordan times for taking up the issue u pheld by PETA of the ill treament of horses, donkeys and camels in PEtra Jordan. I do hope with PEtA help they manage to help these animals and treat them in a humanitarian manner.

Look forward to seeing the change in Petra, Jordan.
Brunila, Goa INdia
11.15 am. 20-01-2018

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