Greek government promises crackdown on using donkeys for tourist rides

Greek government promises crackdown on use of donkeys for tourist rides on Santorini following international outcry over treatment of the animals

  • Greek minister of Agriculture Makis Voridis said authorities would impose fines 
  • A fine up to €30,000 could be issued for mistreatment of donkeys and mules 
  • Concerns were highlighted in a letter from Athenian musician Tommy Leewho 

The Greek government has promised it will restrict the use of donkeys for tourist rides in Santorini following international outcry over their treatment.

Greek minister of Agriculture Makis Voridis said that the authorities were working to impose fines of up to €30,000 (£25,000) for the mistreatment of downtrodden donkeys and mules.

Concerns over the island’s traditional practice of using the animals as ‘taxis’ were highlighted in an open letter from Athens-born musician Tommy Leewho.

A donkey used for tourist rides is tied up in the hot Santorini sun, Greece. The animals are sometimes overworked and underfed by handlers

The letter stated: ‘I’m honored 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.’

He added: ‘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!


Greek Minister of Agriculture Makis Voridis (left) who responded to a letter from musician Tommy Lee, 57, (right) which highlighted concerns over the island’s traditional practice of using the animals as ‘taxis’

‘Instead, they pile on to struggling donkeys, who are forced to carry humans up and down the 500 steps from the port to Firá’s old town several times a day.’ 

Mr Voridis responded to the letter claiming the Ministry aimed to tighten relevant controls before the next tourist season, reports Greekreporter.

In response to the musician’s letter Mr Voridis said: ‘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.’  

A whip is used by one donkey driver as it carries tourists up a hill in Santorini. Mistreatment of donkeys would be met with a €30,000 fine in future according to the minister

The minister said allegations of the mistreatment of donkeys on Santorini was already monitored closely, in line with EU welfare regulations.

He added: ‘We try to make sure to keep up-to-date on the latest scientific data and [EU] Commission guidelines aimed at preventing any kind of animal maltreatment and improving their welfare conditions.

‘In this way we believe that the traditional character of the local communities is maintained and strengthened, their economy is improved but the animals are also protected.’  

Concerns over the island’s traditional practice of using the animals as ‘taxis’ were highlighted in an open letter from Athens-born musician Tommy Leewho

Last summer, more than 108,000 people signed an online petition by PETA deploring the ‘mindless and unnecessary torture [of equines]’ used by tourists to ride the steps.

In response the Greek government introduced legislation making it illegal to burden animals with ‘any load exceeding 15 stone 10 lbs, or one-fifth of [their] body weight.’

However, the activist group says the donkeys should be carrying a maximum of 7st 12lbs, and has released a new video showing how donkeys suffer saddle sores and exhaustion as they labour in 30ºC heat. 

Tommy Lee’s letter in full 

December 5, 2019

The Honorable Makis Voridis 

Minister for Agricultural Development and Food

Greece

Dear Minister Voridis,

I’m honored 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 center.

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 Firá’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.’ I look forward to your response. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tommy Lee

 

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