Facebook campaign calls for pony keepers to think before breeding
A Facebook campaign has been created to raise awareness that the true fate of many of our Dartmoor hill ponies is to provide food for large carnivores in Britain's zoos.
The Think Before You Breed campaign, set up by Charles Brenin, states that 700 ponies have been shot on Dartmoor farms this year, which are then taken to a cutting plant before being supplied to zoos across the UK.
"I support the ponies being on the moor. However I fail to see why we need to overbreed in this quantity if we are simply going to cull them," said Charles Brenin, whose page is growing in popularity. Charlotte Faulkner of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (DHPA) confirms that a welfare disposal system has been put in place.
She said: "At the moment the markets for foals from the moor are at rock bottom as a result of the credit crunch and legislation. This creates a welfare problem as they cannot go back on the moor and the breeders cannot keep them in all winter.
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"We therefore have had to face the bleak reality and put a welfare management scheme in place for those ponies we can't provide a home for."
Knackerman Andrew Goatman, told the WMN that nearly 700 ponies ranging from foals to four-year-olds have been shot this year. "For those that can't be sold it's kinder to shoot them rather than risk them being dumped or end up in someone's back garden as a welfare case," he said.
Pony keeper Helen Radmore said most farmers are putting measures in place to reduce the numbers of foals being bred: "I've cut down on the numbers of mares and run more geldings on the moor. What I would personally love is the use of contraception for the mares but this is still being trialled in the USA."
A Pony Action Group (PAG) which includes Natural England, has been set up to cover issues such as mare and stallion fertility management. Andy Guy, an adviser with Natural England, commented: "The PAG is continuing to find a workable strategy, part of which is to reduce the number of foals coming to market.
These include measures to improve the value of ponies and reduce the size of the foal crop to match demand. How this is achieved is down to the pony keepers to agree.
A 'ten-point plan' has been drawn up which may be one way of doing this. While Natural England remains committed to securing a viable and sustainable future for ponies on Dartmoor and is supportive of measures to control and manage the pony population, these measures must be agreeable to a broad range of groups."