Over 500 steps must be overcome before tourists are able to enjoy the view from the top of Fira, the capital of the Greek island of Santorini.
In order to ensure visitors don’t have to undertake this taxing* work themselves, donkeys are charged with walking up and down the hill every day like living escalators. The traditional ride is a popular attraction, and has been for some time, but it takes a huge toll on the animals themselves.
Now, animal rights activists have released gruesome images from behind the scenes – and the tourist industry has been rocked to its core.
In searing heat, donkeys are forced to haul tourists up the hill one after the other. Often the paths are steep and the stairs dangerous, but the animals are given little respite. To make matters worse, animal rights groups claim that tourists on average are getting heavier – more overweight people are using the donkeys, thereby increasing their workload.
It’s a job without a break, without a moment’s pause, seven days a week. Do they get ample water and good treatment for their service? No. British newspaper The Sun claims that the owners at the Santorini attraction breed donkeys with horses, meaning that the mules are stronger, bigger and better equipped to last longer.
Documenting the ordeal
A picture says a thousand words, especially when it comes to the devastating effects of animal cruelty. Photos from Network for Animals have been released, and they document the bloody wounds hidden from tourists when they book their tickets for the donkey rides.
Most donkeys are even denied proper, tailored saddles, thus exacerbating the injuries sustained. Many of them are so exhausted by the end of the day that they can’t even rise to their feet.
The Sun quotes a spokesperson for the animal welfare organization ‘Help the Santorini Donkeys’ as saying: “It’s recommended that animals should carry no more than 20 per cent of their own body weight. The obese and overweight tourists, combined with the lack of shade and water as well as the sheer heat and 568 cobbled steps, is what is causing such a problem.”
Of course, even without having to carry the excess of overweight passengers, the working conditions for the donkeys would still be torturous.
What can tourists do to help?
The guilt when it comes to the suffering of these animals cannot be laid at the owners of the cruel rides alone. Without a market for it; without people wanting to ride up the hill, the attraction would quickly decline. Tourists can play their part in the fight against these agonizing journeys by foregoing the rides and raising awareness of the animal cruelty involved. Fortunately, due to the hard work of animal rights activists, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the owners of such schemes to cover up the shady results of their business anyway.
All tourists can play their part by making sure “attractions” such as these are a thing of the past. Make no mistake, one day we will look back on these practises with shame and horror. Play your part in eradicating the cruel donkey rides – SHARE this article to help the donkeys of Santorini!