Shock as 700 Dartmoor ponies shot and sent to zoos as food for animals
More than 700 unwanted Dartmoor hill ponies have been shot on farms this year, with their carcasses being sent to zoos to feed the animals.
The market price for the animals has nose-dived, leaving hard-pressed owners feeling they have no other option but to have the healthy animals put down.
Knackerman Andrew Goatman, told the Western Morning News that 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.
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The revelation has led to the start of a campaign on the moor to encourage farmers to breed fewer animals and avoid the need for them to later be euthanised. Charlotte Faulkner of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association confirmed that a welfare disposal system has been put in place by the pony keepers to resolve the issue of ponies not having a market in this present climate.
"We had to react to the recession and this ensures that the ponies don't end up becoming welfare cases, which is what is happening in many other parts of the county," she said.
A Facebook page, Think Before You Breed, has been created to encourage farmers to cut down on the number of animals reared.
Organiser Charles Brenin said the problem stemmed from stallions being left on the moor all-year round.
"Farmers are left with the difficult decision of what to do with their foals and for which there is no market – common sense would dictate that if there is no market for your crop, you stop creating it," he said.
A spokesman for Equinetourism.co.uk, which promotes horse-based tourism in the region, said: "It's heartbreaking to hear."