Each summer, we receive many alerts from tourists who come back from Greece complaining about the dire conditions in which donkeys are kept and used.
Donkeys are extremely popular with the countless tourists who visit the Greek islands every summer. They are seen as an iconic feature of the islands, and donkey rides are commonly considered part of the “real Greek experience.”
But for the donkeys, it’s no fun.
Most Greek islands are difficult to traverse, with many steep hills, small streets and staircases. Therefore, many tourists choose to make the ascent on a donkey’s back. Donkeys and mules are coerced into carrying tourists and their luggage. When they are exhausted, the owners often hit them with sticks to get them to hurry.
Donkeys in the Greek islands are typically not treated humanely and many owners have no respect for them. They are forced to work and stand the whole day in the beating sun, deprived of shade, rest, water or food. Donkey rides usually begin early in the morning and finish after sunset.
During low season, donkeys are also used by local people to carry heavy loads, such as construction materials for houses.
Because of the heavy loads they have to carry during their lifetime, most working donkeys in this region suffer from back problems and have their spinal cords damaged. When they are no longer profitable because they become injured or are too old to work, many owners abandon them and leave them to die alone.
The internet is teeming with pictures and videos that document the mistreatment of these animals.
And yet, despite this, tourists continue to act as accessories in this cruel form of animal exploitation, while local authorities do nothing to stop the lucrative business of donkey rides.
The key to ending this tradition is to get the tourists to stop funding it. Tourist have the chance to play a crucial role in putting a complete stop to this intolerable cruelty.
Travel responsibly and don’t be part of this abuse! Donkeys shouldn’t be used as tourist attractions. Find another way to get where you need to go. Choose a responsible mode of transport. Consider walking or taking a cable car.
Featured image: tourists riding donkeys in Santorini, Greece. Image credit Chase Cheviron, CC BY-SA 2.0.