Hides of slaughtered Dartmoor ponies used for drums
Dartmoor ponies slaughtered because they are too expensive to keep are now having their hides crafted into drums.
The idea for the drums, made by Carolyn Hillyer, was raised after it was revealed a number of the historic breed would have to be slaughtered because farmers could no longer afford to keep them.
While they continue to reproduce, the prices they fetch at market have slumped with four ponies recently selling for just £1. There are now believed to be fewer than 1,000 breeding mares, from a once total of 30,000.
Controversy erupted when it was emerged ponies were being culled to keep numbers down and the meat sold to zoos. Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies said selling the meat was a way to raise funds to conserve future herds.
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Now, the hides of culled ponies are being used to create hand-crafted drums.
Ms Hillyer has been making traditional artisan hand-drums for 15 years, using locally sourced deer skin, and horse hides from America.
But last year, after speaking with Charlotte Faulkner, founder of Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies, she offered to use the hides of the culled ponies.
“They are the first wild pony drums to be made in this country for a very long time, and we see it as part of a wider regeneration project for the whole region,” Ms Hillyer said.
“It’s a sensitive project and it’s taken a year to get to this stage, as I have been working with other people in the community. But the ethos behind it is that nothing is wasted. As far as we know, this is the first time this has been done in this country.”
Mrs Faulkner said the culling scheme “seemed like swallowing a bitter pill” at first.
“We had reached the desperate situation where there was nowhere for these unwanted ponies to go. It was breaking my heart,” she said.
“It was difficult. First using the ponies for zoo meat, then using their hides.
“We don’t want to be shooting ponies and feeding them to lions. But the ponies face such a dire situation. And with this, we are protecting the herds, and the moors. And nothing is being wasted. Carolyn has made three of the pony drums so far and has given me one.
“I see the drums as a symbol of the ponies’ voices – calling you to listen to their cry for support to help them continue looking after Dartmoor.”
But the decision has been criticised by a leading animal rights charity who said culling was a “cruel and ineffective way to manage pony numbers”.
A spokesman for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals said : “That the slaughtered carcasses of these much loved animals are being turned into musical instruments or slabs of meat for depressed tigers in Devon’s zoos is the final indignity.”