Easing the load for donkeys

PAL is lobbying the government of Greece to enforce animal welfare laws and honour its promises to improve the treatment of donkeys in the tourist trade.

PAL is lobbying the government of Greece to enforce animal welfare laws and honour its promises to improve the treatment of donkeys in the tourist trade.

Local authorities on the island of Santorini – one of the most luxurious of all the Greek islands and a tourist mecca – have renewed repeated promises to ease the burden of donkeys used to transport tourists up a steep and winding cliff path. PAL will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure they keep their word.

In July 2018, PAL’s sister organisation, Network for Animals, helped expose the cruel and exploitative treatment of donkeys and mules on Santorini. NFA’s video documented how local authorities have promised for 10 years to provide food, water and medical care to the donkeys, but they have done nothing!

NFA’s video caused a global outcry and with the support of angry Greek animal welfare and animal rights organisations the Municipality of Santorini was forced to take action. It brokered a deal between the donkeys owners (called muleteers) and the animal welfare activists. According to the deal, donkeys will be:

  • provided with adequate shade during the hours that they wait for customers
  • provided with adequate food and water
  • not forced to carry overly heavy loads
  • limited to a set number of working hours per day
  • registered and microchipped
  • provided with veterinary care.

PAL will be watching very carefully to see that this agreement is implemented and results in material improvements in the lives of Santorini’s donkeys.

The plight of donkeys around the world

In August 2018, PAL’s sister organisation, Network for Animals, began working with the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary in South Africa, an organisation that provides a home for more than 250 donkeys and horses saved from the Chinese market.

South African donkeys are being slaughtered for ejiao, a gelatine made by boiling and refining donkey skin to produce a tonic taken as an elixir. Demand for ejiao has grown in China and the country no longer has enough donkeys to satisfy demand. As a result, it is importing donkeys and donkey skins from all over the world.

Africa is its biggest source of skins but countries all over the world are affected. Worryingly, the global trade in donkeys and donkey products is leaving small-scale farmers without their most valuable agricultural support. In response, around 15 countries have taken measures to curb the donkey trade. In 2015, Pakistan became the first country to ban the export of donkey skins. Several African countries, including Botswana, now prohibit exports to China.

PAL is heartened to see the global kickback against the trade in donkeys and donkey products. However, it recognises that animal welfare activists have a long struggle ahead of them to put an end to the trade. The popularity of ejiao is growing amongst China’s middle class and the country is not paying attention to the global outcry against donkey slaughter. In January 2018, China boosted the trade in donkey skins by reducing the tariff on imports from 5% to 2%.