Greece: the misery of Santorini’s donkeys

On the Greek island of Santorini, donkeys and mules are used as taxis to carry tourists up and down more than 600 steps to the old town of Firá several times a day.

Despite international outrage when an eyewitness report published by PETA in 2018 revealed that the animals were denied water and shade and many had painful wounds, a new PETA video exposé reveals that the suffering and abuse continue.


Santorini officials refused to run adverts from PETA which highlight the suffering of donkeys and mules used as “taxis” on the Greek island.

Massive ad campaign fights to stop cruel donkey rides in SantoriniImage: PETA


PETA Germany has refused to be silenced and has bombarded neighboring ports, ferries, taxis, buses, billboards, and cargo bikes with a powerful campaign.

Over 100 adverts reading “Help stop cruelty: please don’t ride the donkeys and mules!” are now visible in the popular Greek coastal towns of Rafina and Piraeus.

The campaign follows a recent PETA eyewitness exposé revealing that handlers drag animals down steps and whip and hit them with sticks to make them continue walking.

Open Sores and Bloody Injuries

Donkeys and mules were observed suffering from open sores, raw skin, and bloody injuries caused by their ill-fitting and makeshift saddles. Some animals were forced to wear tight muzzles with sharp wire ends that could easily injure them as well as humans.

santorini sewl mit maulkorb

Under these laws, animals must have access to water and protection from the weather, but many of those used for rides are tied to a wall or rail for hours in the blistering summer sun with no access to water whatsoever. Some try desperately to find shade.

These conditions are illegal but apparently tolerated by the authorities.

Pferd in knaller SDonne-Santorini

“It’s a disgrace that gentle donkeys are being marched into the ground as they’re forced to work day in and day out with no relief from the hot sun,” PETA Director Elisa Allen said in a statement sent to Totally Vegan Buzz.

esel santoriniSantorini-“taxi”-donkey


“PETA is calling on tourists to avoid these cruel rides while urging Greek authorities to step up and stop this abuse.”

A new law passed this year prevents donkey and mule owners in Santorini from burdening their animals with weights exceeding 100 kilograms.

Dicke Touristin auf Esel. in Santorinijpg

But profit-driven owners often allow heavier riders, placing a great strain on the animals’ backs and joints. This has grave consequences for the donkeys. If they become too weak to carry on with their “work,” they’re often abandoned and left to die.

Many tourists who ride the donkeys seem not to know what they’re doing, and some handle them inhumanely. People have been observed digging their heels into their sides. When the donkeys stop on the steps, the owners often use sticks or whips to drive them on. In one instance, a driver first yanked the animal by the reins then violently beat him with a stick.

When they are not being made to carry heavy loads on their backs, the video reveals how the donkeys are often tethered in the blazing sun without access to water or shade and are unable to move their heads away from bothersome flies.

Even at night, some donkeys on Santorini get no rest: they’re forced to haul heavy bags of garbage.

esel runter in Santorinipg

Please sign our appeal to the Greek minister of agriculture:

And I mean…around 360 donkeys and mules stand at the port of Santorini every day and wait for the large cruise ships full of tourists to take them around 600 steps from the port to the small town. Their owners sell the ride on the animals for five euros as a special experience and make good money with the holidaymakers.

For years, animal rights activists on the island have complained that the animals have to work too long, carry too heavy loads, get too little to eat and drink – and have been exposed to the scorching sun for too long. But nothing has happened since then.

On the contrary: animal rights activists are not popular on Santorini.
In 2018, when they demonstrated against the cruel shuttle service, they were brutally attacked by donkey transport operators.

Animal rights activists say: ” the business with tourists is just the tip of the iceberg of criminal acts. We are currently gathering incriminating evidence against local authorities. ”

Meanwhile, the local slave keepers refuse to restrict their donkey rides. They claim that their booming business even maintains the endangered original tradition of Santorini (!).

The abuse of the animals continues because no keeper has been punished so far.

My best regards to all, Venus

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