A South African animal welfare worker was brutally assaulted and threatened with death, when filming abuse of donkeys on the Greek island of Santorini.

Luke Barritt, a campaigner for international charity Network for Animals (NFA), was spotted filming donkey abuse by irate donkey owners. These men exploit donkeys by making them repeatedly climb a 1000-foot cliff in baking sun with no food, shade or water.

Barritt was documenting broken promises by the Greek government, and local officials who promised last year to improve the treatment of donkeys who are used to carry tourists.

A group of ten attacked Barritt and Polish cameraman Wiktor Dobraczynski, who was trying to film 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.

NFA PodcastNow recovering at his home in South Africa, Barritt said: “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.”

Barritt reported the matter to local police who promised to take action but did not do so.

“The worst thing about this is that I escaped, but there’s no escape for the donkeys,” he said. “They are forced to climb that cliff in baking sun from sunrise to sundown with no food or water in case they soil the cliff path. This cruelty is horrifying.”

Last year, NFA exposed the dreadful treatment of about 100 donkeys. 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; then 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.

Many aren’t even allowed to rest at night – they keep laboring, 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,” says Barritt. “It’s an utter disgrace and I urge tourists who plan to visit Santorini, to think again until this cruelty stops.

You can find out more about Network for Animals and our fight against the Worldwide Donkey Crisis by clicking here.