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Santorini donkey owners viciously attack activists

Animal rights activists filmed the moment they claim they were brutally attacked by donkey owners in Santorini for protesting the mistreatment of the animals.

Members of the Athens branch of Direct Action Everywhere had gathered on the Greek holiday island for a peaceful protest last week.

But the campaigners claim they hadn’t even started their demonstration when a group of 30-strong donkey owners viciously kicked, punched, shoved and spat on them.

A shocking video of the incident shows a heavyset Greek man chasing the protesters down narrow cobbled steps in the island’s capital Fira.

Animal rights activists filmed the moment they claim they were brutally attacked by donkey owners in Santorini

Members of the Athens branch of Direct Action Everywhere had gathered on the Greek holiday island for a peaceful protest last week 

The man is seen grabbing their placards and hurling them to the ground before shoving and yelling at the activists.

As the situation continued to escalate, the protesters claim they were unable to continue filming as they feared for their lives when the men continued to threaten and attack them.

Some of their banners – including one that showed a picture of an over-worked donkey and the words ‘I need your voice – were seen burned on the cobbled steps.

Maria Skourta, 42, the leader of the Athens branch of the campaign group, said: ‘I have been beaten up before, but never like that.

‘As we started going down the stairs, they had already started to mock us. At first, they weren’t violent but were just making fun of us.

The campaigners claim they hadn’t even started their demonstration when a group of 30-strong donkey owners viciously kicked, punched, shoved and spat on them

The man is seen grabbing their placards and hurling them to the ground before shoving and yelling at the activists

‘We kept walking and when we reached a point they considered safe, they ran behind us, grabbed our placards and burned them.’

Then, she said, things took a violent turn.

‘They started hitting us with their walking sticks,’ Ms Skourta, a dancer, added.

‘The two men of our group were thrown to the ground and got kicked.

‘They were spitting on us and did not let us get our phones, they were also verbally violent.

‘They were sticking their faces on our faces saying ‘we are going to kill you.”

The activists were protesting the mistreatment of donkeys, which are made to carry tourists up the steep hills of Santorini

One of the victims said a man had tried to throw her over a cliff until one of her fellow activists came to her rescue

She added: ‘They attacked me and pulled my hair. I even heard the hair coming out of my head and then threw me to the ground and started kicking me

‘They grabbed my purse to get my phone. I quickly put it into my pocket.’

Horrifying, she said that one of her attackers had tried to throw her over a cliff until one of her fellow activists came to her rescue.

She said ‘They threw my bag over the cliff and then lifted me up, ready to throw me too – luckily one of the group came to save me.

‘Even today I get anonymous calls saying ‘ I’m going to kill you and they’ll never find you’.

‘The next day we were walking in the centre and some of them kept threatening us saying ‘you haven’t learnt your lesson yet’.

‘I have a pain in my back and my ribs because they were kicking me, and a headache – but I was lucky in comparison to others.

Members of the Athens branch of campaign group Direct Action Everywhere protest the vile treatment of Donkeys in Santorini

‘They were chasing one of the poor girls – she managed to escape after she gave her phone to a tourist to save the video.’

Elisavet Chatzi, 45, from Athens, said the group of men even attacked her 16-year-old daughter.

‘There were about 30 men that attacked us – there was just 10 of us campaigners, most of us women,’ she said.

‘They were hitting us, punching us, kicking us, they even threw our phones and bags over the cliff.

‘My 16-year-old daughter was with me and they even attacked her, she got punched in the face.

‘One of the girls that was with us was on the ground, and they kept kicking her.’

The plight of donkeys in Santorini was brought to light last week when an investigation revealed the animals were being crippled by overweight tourists

She added that a disabled activist was hit so hard that she dislocated her shoulder that may require surgery.

A spokesman for the Fira Police Department in Santorini said they were investigating the incident, but said the activists were only lightly injured.

‘There hasn’t been any official report to us,’ the spokesman said.

‘We went to the incident and questioned some people – but since they haven’t been arrested, we cannot charge them.

‘We have spoken to the activists group, we informed them for their rights and heard their complaints.

‘Other than that, we haven’t had any communication with anyone about this incident.’

Donkeys have traditionally been used to transport people over the areas which vehicles cannot access, such as in the capital

One of the group’s banners showed a picture of an over-worked donkey and the words ‘I need your voice’

The plight of donkeys in Santorini was brought to light last week when an investigation revealed the animals were being crippled by overweight tourists.

Between the peak tourism months of May to October, up to five cruise ships a day bringing swarms of 1,200 tourists to the tiny island, which is known for its hilly terrain.

Donkeys have traditionally been used to transport people over the areas which vehicles cannot access, such as in the capital.

But animal rights campaigners claim with obesity on the rise, donkeys are being forced to carry ever-heavier loads up the steep cliffs of the idyllic island.

Forced to carry tourists for seven days a week without shelter, rest and water is leaving them with spinal injuries and open wounds from ill-fitting saddles.

The activists shared pictures showing the injuries they had been left with after the incident

The activists said the donkey owners burned their banners on the cobbled steps in Santorini

Charities also claim the rise of overweight tourists also means locals keen to get the most out of their animals are crossbreeding donkeys with horses to create mules, which are bigger and taller and can carry heavier loads.

The protests and adverse publicity led to authorities in Santorini deciding to offer protection for the donkeys who carry tourists up a steep cliff, after facing.

The town hall issued a statement Saturday saying a meeting had been held with animal rights groups and animal owners to ensure ‘respect for the rights and well-being of donkeys’.

After a video of an owner beating a donkey aired on social networks, four campaigning groups held a protest on Friday which ended in scuffles.

Members of the Athens branch of Direct Action Everywhere pose for a picture on the holiday island before the incident

A spokesman for the Fira Police Department in Santorini said they were investigating the incident, but said the activists were only lightly injured

The town hall said all parties had accepted a series of measures including keeping the animals in the shade during rest periods and ensuring plenty of water and food.

The load and hours of the donkeys would also be limited while owners who mistreat their animals would be banned.

The statement said the rights activists ‘declared themselves satisfied with these measures, as long they are followed’.

Santorini, perched hundreds of metres above a bay in a volcanic crater, has struggled to cope with huge numbers of tourists who have flooded in over recent years.

The town hall has imposed limits on the numbers of cruise liners and people allowed onto the island.

The plight of donkeys in Santorini was brought to light last week when an investigation revealed the animals were being crippled by overweight tourists 

Charities also claim the rise of overweight tourists also means locals keen to get the most out of their animals are crossbreeding donkeys with horses to create mules 

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