PETA’s work in Petra, Jordan, began soon after a first-of-its-kind PETA Asia eyewitness investigation into the extensive abuse of some 1,300 donkeys, horses, and camels in 2017. These eyewitnesses documented that donkeys, most of whom were malnourished and some even lame, were forced to climb 900 crumbling stone steps up to Petra’s monastery—all while enduring vicious whippings and beatings.
This grueling 5-mile trek was repeated five or more times a day, each time with the weight of a tourist on their back. There was no shade to provide relief from the relentless desert sun, and many animals didn’t even have access to water. Owners often ignored the animals’ injuries and declining health—even as flies infested their wounds and maggots ate away at their flesh. Instead of being treated with compassion and receiving care, they were jabbed with sharp sticks, whipped with rope or chains, and hit over the head to make them keep working no matter what.
Even when not working, animals in Petra face the constant threat of violence. Bored children bash donkeys on the head with rocks and even push them off cliffs for “fun.” Those who aren’t killed outright are left to die slowly in the dust.
PETA Asia shared these findings with the local government, pleading with officials to take action to end this rampant abuse. Despite pledges by government officials to improve conditions for working animals, nothing had changed when the eyewitnesses returned in 2018—so we persisted. This time, officials gave PETA permission to open a clinic to provide injured, abused, and neglected animals with medical treatment. For this, at least, we thank them.
We wasted no time getting the clinic up and running to help donkeys, horses, and other animals who had never before received even basic veterinary care. Our facility opened its doors in 2019, complete with indoor areas for exams and treatment, cubicles for overnight stays, and a yard in which patients can recover from their wounds.
Sometimes, all that the animals need is food and water to prevent malnutrition and dehydration. Other patients arrive with a variety of injuries and illnesses, including gastrointestinal obstructions from eating plastic as they forage for scraps of food. Some are suffering from terrible infections and parasitic infestations or painful, deep wounds from razor blades, leg hobbles, ill-fitting saddles, and metal face harnesses.
Access to a free clinic means that owners who had never done anything to help sick or injured animals now realize that they can and must seek medical help for them. And they do—the clinic is seeing new patients each day as word spreads throughout the region.
With the help of a mobile clinic, the team has also been able to offer care to animals located in the gorges surrounding the tourist site, including the baby camel pictured below, who had an open leg fracture. Unable to walk or nurse, his life was at risk, and he would have died in agony if the veterinary team hadn’t managed to fit him with a walking cast that was removable to allow for treatment of his ghastly wound. Thanks to that clever solution, painkillers, and antibiotics, he got better and was able to walk and nurse comfortably once again.
This work to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of donkeys, horses, camels, and other desperate working animals in Petra is vital—and PETA is the only group doing it.