SA man whipped and beaten while filming animal abuse on Greek island
What was meant to be an excursion to film alleged abuse endured by donkeys in Santorini, Greece, turned out to be a nightmare for a South African animal welfare worker.
Luke Barritt was brutally assaulted and threatened with death.
“The sheer venom of the donkey owners stunned me. They were kicking me and beating me with the same whips they used on the donkeys. It was a truly frightening experience. The worst thing about this is that I escaped, but there’s no escape for the donkeys,” said Barritt, a campaigner for international charity Network For Animals (NFA).
Barritt had been filming the mistreatment and abuse of donkeys. The animals' owners exploited them by making them repeatedly climb a 1,000-foot cliff in baking sun with no food, shade or water, according to Miranda Raff of NFA.
"Barritt was documenting broken promises by the Greek government and local officials, who promised last year to improve the treatment of donkeys that are used to carry tourists up its steep cliffs," she said.
Detailing the gruesome attack, Raff said: "A group of 10 people attacked Barritt and Polish cameraman Wiktor Dobraczynski, who was 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."
The matter was reported to local police who promised to take action, but did not do so, according to NFA.
The attack comes after the NFA exposed the dreadful treatment of about 100 donkeys in Santorini last year, said Raff.
NFA said that as many as 17,000 tourists disembark each day from giant cruise ships at the base of the cliff, and many ride donkeys to the top. Many of the donkeys become so exhausted that they simply stop walking - which is allegedly when 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," said Raff.
The NFA also alleged that the abuse of the donkeys included them not being allowed to rest at night. Instead they are made to keep working by 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. 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 again until this cruelty stops," said Barritt, who is now recovering at his Cape Town home.