Officials for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have claimed that donkeys and mules on the Greek island of Santorini are still being overworked and abused as “tourist taxis,” charging that legislation recently passed to protect the animals is not being enforced.
On Wednesday, PETA Germany shared new video footage to YouTube of the equines trudging up and down the 500 steps from Santorini’s port to the city of Fira, carrying visitors in ill-fitting tack. The footage was reportedly filmed at the end of September, the Daily Mail reports, capping off what PETA described as another busy tourism season that unjustly battered the animals.
In the clip, which has since been viewed over 2,700 times, a narrator said that about 100 donkeys and mules are still suffering every day as they trek up and down the “slippery,” 500-step staircase carrying tourists, some over the 220-pound weight limit, multiple times a day. Outfitted in wire muzzles and tight-fitting saddles, the animals are reportedly beaten by handlers after stumbling or balking as they walk the path, despite the injuries and open wounds that plague their bodies.
The narrator continued to claim that tour operators have no remorse in pushing the animals to their limits because they “don’t want to miss out on any paying customers.”
Now, PETA is calling for Greek officials to ban the “tourist taxi” business altogether, a press release reports.
“Santorini holds itself apart from Greece and Greek law — it’s a totally uncivilized place where men openly whip and beat donkeys and mules, making them perform backbreaking work, day in and day out,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “Greek authorities need to step up and end the use of these animals.”
In October 2018, in a sweeping move for equine rights, Santorini leaders formally banned “obese” tourists weighing over 220 pounds from riding local donkeys at the popular cruise ship destination following international outcry.
The issue made international headlines in July 2018, when the animal rights group, Help the Santorini Donkeys, began petitioning for a weight restriction for donkey riders.
The year prior, Greece welcomed a record-breaking number of 33 million tourists, per Reuters, with as many as 1,000 tourists a day flooding Santorini during the peak vacation season between May and October.
Hundreds of overweight riders and inadequate saddles were leaving the animals effectively crippled with spinal pains, the Express reported.
“The holiday season on islands is now a lot longer than it used to be, meaning that the donkeys are pretty much working the whole year round,” Christina Kaloudi, founder of the Santorini Animal Welfare Association, told The Sun at the time.
Despite the new rules, PETA now alleges that the animal abuse in Santorini continues, as the new footage illustrates the “blatant flouting of the already-generous weight restriction, as tourists of all weights were allowed to ride the animals,” the release said.