A South African animal welfare worker was brutally assaulted and threatened with death when filming the abuse of donkeys on the Greek island of Santorini.
Luke Barritt, a campaigner for international charity Network for Animals (NFA) was spotted filming the mistreatment and abuse of donkeys when he was attacked by irate donkey owners. These owners exploit donkeys on a daily basis by making them climb a 1000-foot cliff in the baking sun with no food, shade or water.
Barritt was documenting broken promises by the Greek government who last year committed to improving the treatment of donkeys that are used to carry tourists up steep cliffs.
A group of ten people attacked Barritt and Polish cameraman Wiktor Dobraczynski, who were trying to get footage of the abuse. The enraged donkey owners kicked and struck Barritt, driving him to the cliff edge while threatening to throw him over. Dobrazczynski rescued him but was also attacked in the process.
Barritt reported the matter to local police who promised to take action but did not do so.
Now recovering at his home in Cape Town, Barritt said: “The sheer venom of the donkey owners stunned me. They were kicking me and beating me with the same whips they use on the donkeys. It was a truly frightening experience.”
“I escaped but the worst thing is that there’s no escape for the donkeys. They are forced to climb that cliff from sunrise to sundown. They are not given food or water, so as to not soil the cliff path. The cruelty is horrifying.”
Last year, NFA exposed the dreadful treatment of about 100 donkeys in Santorini. As many as 17,000 tourists disembark from giant cruise-ships each day at the base of the cliff. Many of the tourists ride them to the top, and the donkeys become so exhausted that they simply stop walking. Then the owners thrash them with whips.
This shameful cruelty continues, despite last year’s guarantees from local authorities that the donkeys would be treated more humanely. A year later, nothing has changed – many of the animals have spinal or limb injuries from the ceaseless, backbreaking toil in extremely hot conditions.
Many aren’t even allowed to rest at night – they keep labouring, clearing refuse and transporting goods across the island in service of the hotels and guest houses in Santorini.
“These donkeys are essentially worked to death,” said Barritt.
“It’s clear that the promised improvements have not been made. It’s an utter disgrace and I urge tourists who plan to visit Santorini to think about this cruelty. Refrain from riding donkeys.”