Horrific Video Shows Donkeys Being Beaten and Forced to Carry Overweight Tourists

July 15, 2019 Updated: July 23, 2019

Santorini is the jewel in the crown of the Greek Islands—it is considered the most iconic and photogenic of the islands. Even the donkeys can be seen decked out in colored adornments as they ferry tourists around. But don’t be fooled by this idyllic picture, as the island hides a dark and ugly secret. Every week, around 40,000 tourists can be seen embarking from luxury cruise liners to the harbor at the base of a steep mountain climb.

The activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has released horrific footage of donkeys being forced to carry what are often very overweight tourists, and then cargo up hundreds of steps. Often, the donkeys have open sores rubbing where the ill-fitting saddles are. Spinal injuries have also been detected.

To complete the picture, the handlers were filmed whipping the exhausted and suffering animals if they were seen to resist the trek.

The animals are forced to do the trip up more than 500 steps to the town of Fira—they walk the distance four or five times daily, which amounts to about 20 hours of hard labor.

PETA also claims the animals are often deprived of water and shade. “Put your hand under their girths and saddles and they are full of open wounds,” said Maria Astraveni of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, reported DW.

“Their bridles and mouthpieces are drenched in blood at times. And when they break down and collapse, unable to continue, their owners just discard them like some tool. They let them die, replacing them with another younger one or a mule.”

A PETA campaign with the slogan “Donkeys Suffer for Tourists. Please Don’t Ride Them!” now rides on the backs of buses—along with a picture of an exhausted donkey—that aims to spare the donkey and encourage other means of transportation. This campaign is sponsored by PETA, who have accused authorities of trying to block their campaign and attempting to cover up the abuses.

In 2018, there was global condemnation of the donkey’s sadistic treatment. Amid protests that turned violent, authorities then agreed to place a ban on the donkeys being overloaded.

Such measures included keeping donkeys in proper stalls, allowing them to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, and limiting their workload during high temperatures.

However, activists say that despite such measures, animal abuse still occurs.

Astraveni said that “zip, zilch, zero has changed.”

“We are well beyond the point of trying to sensitize owners, encouraging them to a kinder, gentler use of the animal,” Astraveni told DW. “And we are well beyond the point of drawing focus on the donkey rides alone. They [the rides] are just the tip of the iceberg of criminal conduct and we are in the process of compiling damning evidence against the authorities.”

In defense, Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos said in a statement that authorities are abiding by Greek law, which protects the animals. “We care about their well-being,” Zorzos said.

Astraveni is concerned that unless the donkeys are freed from this, they “face certain extinction.” Half a century ago, there were more than half a million donkeys in Greece. Now, Santorini has the biggest community of the animals in Greece, with a mere 2,000 left.

“Greek authorities should be stepping up and stopping donkeys from being marched into the ground in Santorini, not covering up the cruelty of forcing them to carry heavy loads of tourists up hundreds of steps,” PETA director Elisa Allen said in a statement.