Beautiful cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, enchanting sunsets – Santorini is probably considered the most emblematic and idyllic island of the Aegean. For many of the traditional image are the donkeys that carry numerous visitors, climbing the stairs from the old port of Fira. For the activists of the animal-friendly organization PETA, the naked donkeys are simply tortured.
In an international PETA campaign, local authorities are accused of hiding incidents of ill-treatment of animals on the island. The activists even complain that, as they say, they are preventing them from telling the world by handing out brochures, which depict an exhausted quadruped and beside the following statement: “The donkeys suffer for the tourists, please do not ride them.”
Daughter … patience
PETA’s new campaign “runs” about a year after authorities decided to intervene, forbidding heavy loads. But since then, she argues, Maria Astradeni, an activist of the animation organization Direct Action Everywhere, “absolutely nothing has changed.” She also thinks that local authorities are closing their eyes on what the quadrupeds are and preferring to protect the professionals who hire them to tourists.
In recent years, many animal protection campaigns have taken place in Santorini. That’s why PETA activists feel they need to step up the pressure, even resorting to lawsuits. “We have now overtaken that stage in which we are sensitizing professionals and encouraging them to adopt a different approach to animals,” says Maria Astradeni in DW. “Donkeys must be left freely,” he points out.
Six euros for a … authentic experience
The total population of quadrupeds in Santorini has declined by 96% in recent decades. According to the University of Athens, in 1955 there were 508,000 donkeys on the island, 12,000 were recorded in 2015, but today there are not more than 2,000 left.
They continuously ascend the 520 steps up to the old port of Fira, up to 20 hours a day. For this “authentic Greek experience”, as they say, their owners charge the route six euros. And they often give the animals little water and little food. “If you put your hand under the saddle, you will see that it is full of wounds,” says Maria Astradieni. “And when they collapse, their owners simply leave them, let them die and they get a new donkey or a mule.”