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Greece Urged To Ban Use Of Donkeys As ‘Tourist Taxis’

Shocking footage shows exhausted, overheated mules and donkeys carrying heavy tourists up and down winding stairs in Santorini, as a cable car runs nearby.

The new video released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows the equines struggling up and down the 500 steps from Santorini’s port to the city of Fira, as they carry heavy tourists.

The footage shows the exhausted donkeys and mules with bloody wounds, being beaten and forced to carry tourists up and down steep, slippery steps all day long.

"It’s a disgrace that gentle donkeys and mules are still being whipped and marched into the ground as they’re forced to work day in and day out with no relief from the hot sun," PETA's Director Elisa Allen said.

The animals are forced to make the slippery 500 step journey several times a day. Image: PETA

Last year, following a PETA appeal, the Greek Ministry for Rural Development banned these types of rides for anyone weighing over 100 kilograms.

Yet the footage shows, many tourists who appear to be over the weight limit, taking the rides.

"PETA is calling on tourists to steer clear of these hideously cruel rides and urging Greek authorities to step up and stop this abuse," Allen said.

The footage was shot in September, although July and August are the peak tourist season on the island with temperatures often reaching 39°C.

The donkeys and mules are forced to wear ill-fitting riding gear and muzzles like this. Image: PETA

In addition to the harsh treatment of the animals, the footage also captured an animal tripping after being hit with a stick by its handler.

One man, who was travelling on foot alongside the animal, had to jump onto a wall to get out the way.

PETA said these journeys also endanger tourists who are on foot.

The animal rights group has since launched an online petition calling for the Greek government to introduce a blanket ban on these rides they refer to as "tourist taxis".

In Santorini, there is cable car situated next to the steps which can carry tourists with ease.

"Donkeys and mules have painful wounds – both fresh injuries and old, untreated ones that have scarred over – on their abdomens caused by ill-fitting saddle girths and other inadequate equipment. For them, every step means pain," a petition reads.

The footage shows handlers beating the animals. Image: PETA

Santorini is one of Greece's most popular destinations and had two million visitors in 2018.

In 2017, almost 215000 Australian tourists travelled to Greece. It's the fifth most popular European destination after the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au