The poor, poor donkeys of Santorini

Donkeys of Fira
Is that the happy donkey?

One of the things that Santorini is known for, is, donkeys. You cannot really miss them on t-shirts, refrigerator magnets and stuffed toys that show these cute loveable creatures smiling away and living the island life.

A thing to do in Fira is to take a donkey to climb up the 588 steps to the old ferry port.

I was somewhat unhappy to see activity because I support a donkey charity (yes that’s a thing and read the inspiring story of Jean and Bob behind this charity) and find the act of putting a human on a donkeys back inhumane.

I have learnt while supporting Asswin that the general perception that donkeys can really take any absurd amount of weight is wrong and most donkeys end up suffering a broken back. Once an animal has a broken back, they are discarded to die. Note: this is the truth in India and I have no data to say that this happens in Santorini and to an untrained eye(read mine), the donkeys indeed looked healthy.

The second issue is that donkeys aren’t sexy enough or worse yet, they are the butt of jokes which means that there is no charity (except Jean & Bob) who even try to do the work of rescuing and rehabilitating these creatures. This work is really done to help who aren’t helped by anyone else.

But back to the story.

I was out and about for my morning Santorini pictures and I saw a man tying garbage bags in front of the restaurant I had been to previous night. This is where I began to think about garbage disposal in Santorini. The steps are steep, way too steep for humans to pick it up and garbage trucks might not make it to all places. So how do they do it?

Coming from Silicon Valley, I was trying to figure the technological solution to the problem.

 

Donkeys of Fira
Couple of bags – thats a good enough load

Whilst I was trying to figure the puzzle out — I saw a couple of guys bringing their donkeys along. This was 5:30 am in the morning and there was no one on the roads except for me and a few stragglers heading back to their rooms after a night out.

 

The donkey handler stop in front of the restaurant I was in and start loading the donkey. 1 bag… 2 bags…3 bags — he kept going on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t keep a count because I was busy watching the face of the donkey.

Donkeys of Fira
maybe a few more

 

This donkey was about 2 feet away from me and the face was one of utter hopelessness. The face became further grim with every additional bag that landed on its back and somewhere along a tear streamed down its eye :-(.

Donkeys of Fira
Perhaps we will stop now?
Donkeys of Fira
Just look at the insane load on its back!

 

Once fully loaded, it had some difficulty finding its footing on the steep steps and along it went on the steps of Fira.

Donkeys of Fira
wobbly footing – this is too hard!

Quietly, uncomplainingly, having done the job of keep the town clean for tourists like me to come in and click pictures.

Donkeys of Fira
off he goes with the insane load

I don’t quite fault the handlers who are busy earning their livelihood — this is so much better than the horses of Iceland where they end up on the dinner table.

But the question is…

At what point will humanity evolve where animal rights equal to human rights. At what point will humanity evolve such that animals aren’t seen as a commodity to be cut, sliced, diced and milked.

What needs to happen to get us to a point where we are even ready to have a conversation that animals need to be treated humanely and I mean treated and not killed humanely.

Seeing the donkeys in Santorini was heart breaking but what made the heart break brutal was to realise that all I could do is write a blog about this fully well knowning that not a whole lot of people will even bother reading it.


(originally published on blueorangeart.com)

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