Cruelty to the donkeys and mules used to transport tourists and goods up and down the hills of Santorini has been in the news lately and animal activists have petitioned relentlessly, including a petition signed by 108,000 people condemning tourists for riding the animals up the steep steps.
As a result, the Greek government banned the animals from carrying people weighing more than100kg (about 220lbs). Unfortunately the law was largely ignored.
After renewed efforts by PETA and animal charities, the Greek Minister for Agriculture and Food, Makis Voridis, recently said that authorities are working towards fines of up to £25,000 (about $33,000 or €29.700) for mistreatment or abuse of downtrodden donkeys and mules on the island.
Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, born in Greece, voiced his concern over the use of donkeys and mules as taxis for tourists on Santorini in an open letter to authorities which reads:
I’m honoured to have been born in Athens, and wherever I tour with Mötley Crüe, I proudly proclaim my Greek heritage.
But there’s an issue souring the reputation of Greece that I hope you’ll help resolve: the sickening abuse of broken-down donkeys and mules made to lug tourists up steep hills on Santorini.
I visited the island this summer on a yacht trip – we docked there for two days and I refused to ride a donkey up to the city centre.
I just saw this story about it on CNN and decided to join my friends at PETA in trying to stop this cruelty. I was especially angry to learn that a law passed just a few years ago to help the donkeys isn’t being enforced. Tourists should take Santorini’s cool cable car!
Instead they pile on to struggling donkeys, who are forced to carry humans up and down the 500 steps from the port to Fira’s old town several times a day.
Ill-fitting saddles cause inflamed wounds that often go untreated.
Animals have no protection from the scorching Greek sun and are only rarely granted short breaks.
They’re even denied food and water. The video footage of these suffering animals haunts me.
I understand that you have the power to stop this cruelty and make Santorini hospitable to both tourists and animals. Please put an immediate end to the old-school cruelty of ‘animal taxis’.
For context, around 1,200 tourists arrive on Santorini every day, with many seeing the traditional donkey ride up the steps to the old town as a staple part of the tourist experience.
In October 2018, anyone weighing more than 100kg were banned from riding the donkeys. The lack of enforcement of the rules prompted Tommy Lee to publish his letter.
Mr Voridis, in his response, said that his Ministry is aiming to tighten the relevant controls before the next tourist season begins in 2020, and continued:
‘’The welfare of productive animals, working animals and generally all the animals of our country is a major concern for me personally and for our Ministry.
In the event of violations of existing legislation by the audit authorities, the offenders will be subject to severe penalties.
It is noted that the envisaged fine may be up to €30,000.’’
The minister added that allegations of mistreatment of donkeys was monitored extremely closely and in line with EU animal welfare regulations, and that he wanted the animals protected while tradition is upheld, communities maintained and strengthened.
Christina Kaloudi moved to Santorini in 2009 and set up the Santorini Animal Welfare Association does not want locals to lose their businesses but they need to value and take care of the animals that provide them with their income.
In a 2018 statement Kaloudi said:
‘’The holiday season on islands is now a lot longer than it used to be, meaning that donkeys are pretty much in work the whole year round.
If they are not transporting tourists up the steps they are moving building materials or transporting heavy bags of rubbish.
There are some good owners out there that follow the code but generally
donkeys are worked into the ground and then disposed of when their working lives are over.
We don’t want to stop the locals making a living or using donkeys on the steps but to look after them in a fair and humane way.
That’s really not that much to ask, is it?’
Indeed it is not!
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