American animal rights group PETA has accused Greek authorities on the island of Santorini of covering up what it called the “cruel” treatment of donkeys.
In a news release on its website, followed by millions of activists and supporters throughout the United States and the world, the organization, which is officially called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, came out strongly against the island’s leaders and called for action to be taken.
Famous for its steep cliffs overlooking the dark Aegean Sea below and whitewashed homes perched high above, the volcanic island draws millions of tourists annually.
Donkeys and mules are the traditional mode of transportation up and down the steep cliffs.
According to the PETA press announcement that launched its campaign, they are forced to carry visitors and their luggage up steep hills when cable cars are available.
According to the organization’s announcement online, “An eyewitness report reveals the horrific conditions that approximately 100 donkeys and mules are forced to endure every day on the Greek island of Santorini. They carry heavy loads, are given practically no respite from the hot Mediterranean sun, and are even denied access to water. They also incur wounds and abrasions from ill-fitting and worn-out saddles.”
The organization also published footage from 2018 showing animals being whipped with sticks and overloaded with human cargo and accused local authorities of blocking its campaign on buses and taxis depicting an exhausted donkey next to the words “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,” PETA director Elisa Allen said in a statement.
Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos said authorities were abiding by Greek law that protects the animals and said “several organizations” had deemed they were in good health.
“We care about their well-being,” Zorzos told Reuters, adding that the municipality had no jurisdiction over any campaign on buses or taxis.
The group said it would consider other options to make tourists on Santorini aware of the animals’ ordeal this summer.