Officials for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) believe that authorities on the Greek island of Santorini are concealing tourist-related abuse of local donkeys, who are constantly forced to carry tourists – some who are “overweight” – and their luggage up the steep hills of the popular vacation destination.
The animal rights group resurfaced footage from 2018, showing the equines being hit with sticks and overloaded with bags, Reuters reports. PETA is now accusing government officials of “blocking” their transportation campaign on buses and taxes, featuring the slogan “Donkeys Suffer for Tourists. Please Don’t Ride Them.”
“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,” Elisa Allen, PETA director, said of the claims.
The issue made international headlines last summer, when the animal rights group Help the Santorini Donkeys began petitioning for a weight restriction for donkey riders. Last year, Greece welcomed a record-breaking number of 33 million, tourists, as 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 ill-fitting saddles were leaving the animals effectively crippled, with spinal injuries and open wounds, 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.
In a sweeping move for equine rights, local authorities formally banned “obese” tourists weighing over 220 pounds from riding the donkeys– though PETA alleges that the animal abuse in Santorini continues.
Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos, however, argues otherwise.
“We care about their well-being,” Zorzos told Reuters of the hardworking donkeys, detailing that elected officials had nothing to do with any thwarted advertising campaigns.
Moving forward, PETA plans to investigate other ways to spread their message.