Tag: The Donkey Sanctuary

Petition seeks better working conditions for mules & donkeys used as ‘tourist taxis’ on Santorini


Santorini donkeys

Some of the mules used to transport tourists up and down hundreds of steps between the cruiseship tender dock and Fira, the main town on Santorini


Animal abuse: An international online petition is urging local authorities on Santorini to make significant improvements to the welfare and working conditions of dozens of mules and donkeys that are forced to repeatedly carry tourists up and down hundreds of steps on the island every day, often without adequate water, shade and rest.

The petition is the latest in a series of efforts The Donkey Sanctuary has undertaken during the past 8 years as part of an ongoing campaign to reduce and prevent abuse and cruelty toward donkeys and mules on Santorini, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece.

I described The Donkey Sanctuary’s earlier initiatives in my April 12 2013 post, Don’t ride the donkeys! Why tourists should avoid taking the mule ‘taxis’ on Santorini, which has since become the most-read report on my website. (Please click on the link to see the article and photos if you aren’t already aware of the Santorini donkey situation.)



Animals are denied access to shade, water & rest for long periods

The Donkey Sanctuary decided to launch the latest course of action after an independent report produced in 2013 “revealed that many of these animals are forced to carry overweight passengers and are denied access to shade, water and rest for hours at a time. Poor quality saddles and bridles are often used and safety guidelines are regularly ignored, placing tourists at risk of injury. “

“Over the past few years we have attempted to work with the town municipality to provide training and equipment for the taxi operators although unfortunately, the standards have not been maintained and the level of complaints has risen yet again,” The Sanctuary explains on its website.

The petition calls for a number of “urgent improvements” to the welfare of Santorini’s mule taxis, including provision of adequate shelter and shade, access to fresh water, predetermined weight limits for passengers, and regular veterinary and tack inspections, among others.

Names collected on the petition “will be presented to the mayor of Santorini as part of our campaign to improve standards for donkeys and mules working in the tourism industry,” The Sanctuary says.


Donkey Sanctuary

A screen capture of The Donkey Sanctuary website post explaining reasons for its petition to prevent cruelty to mules and donkeys in Santorini


Don’t ride the donkeys! Why tourists should avoid taking the mule ‘taxis’ on Santorini


 Fira on Santorini

Cruise ships that visit Santorini drop anchor in the sea below the capital town of Fira and tender passengers to shore. From there, visitors reach Fira either by walking approximately 600 steps up the path (left) that zig-zags up the face of the 800-foot cliff  …


Santorini cable car

… by paying several Euros for the 3-minute ride up the cable car lift


donkey in Santorini

… or by riding a donkey like this one, which we encountered in Firostefani village during one of our three visits to Santorini. The donkey rides, which cost around €5, are a transport option that local mule owners provided for years before the cable car was installed. But animal welfare groups and even some cruise lines strongly urge travellers not to take the donkey “taxis” because the animals toil in poor working conditions and have been subjected to abuse and mistreatment by their handlers.


Ass transit:   Now that it’s spring, tens of thousands of people around the world are finalizing their plans for holidays in Greece this summer. Many will be travelling on cruise ships that will visit several Greek Islands, including what is probably the most popular port stop of all — Santorini.  Hundreds of those people may be hoping to make their arrival at Santorini even more memorable and “romantic” by taking what they believe will be a “traditional” donkey ride up the long path that links the cruise ship dock with the town of Fira, the island’s capital, which is perched atop the caldera cliffs hundreds of feet above the sea. Here’s a simple word of advice if you’re thinking about doing the same thing: don’t.

Though the donkeys might look “cute,” and the rides might appear to be a harmless and fun tourist attraction, travellers who use the mules as transportation actually contribute to animal abuse, according to animal welfare organizations and frequent visitors to the island who have personally witnessed handlers mistreating their donkeys.



The abuse takes several forms. The roughly 360 donkeys and mules that work as tourist “taxis” on the island are forced to climb up and back down a pathway with around 600 steep steps, making as many as seven trips a day between 9 o’clock in the morning and sunset. Often, the animals are required to carry tourists who, putting it bluntly, are obese and may weigh considerably more than the donkeys themselves.  And the mules must do this exhausting, gruelling work in blazing sunshine and searing summer heat, often with unsatisfactory food, water and rest periods, plus few if any breaks in the shade. To add insult to injury, they may be wearing ill-fitting harnesses that inflict cuts and sores on their bodies, while their owners or handlers may frequently strike them with sticks to make them move or hurry up. In short, they toil under cruel and deplorable working conditions.


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