Sunday, 13 August 2017

Eat Dartmoor Ponies To Save Them....Yet Again!

Yet again there are going to be a lot of people very unhappy about the media coverage on BBC Countryfile of the "Eat Dartmoor Ponies to Save Them" campaign...with no real actual debate on the pony situation itself.  I do feel sorry for the Dartmoor Pony Society who have to permanently have a feature at the top of their website making clear that they have nothing to do the the Dartmoor Hill Pony associations/charities.  The owners of the true Dartmoor ponies are very passionate about their breed and it is the HILL PONY owners which are the ones which are promoting the meat scheme - this should be made clear.

There will be a lot of people who take issue with the same individual heading up both a charity/rescue centre for ponies and a slaughter scheme for them...and no mention of that was made by Countryfile at all!  If it had been the head/representative of The Donkey Sanctuary, The Dogs Trust, or Cats Protection League being interviewed for the same plans for their own respective species I don't think the subject would have been avoided!   

In the first half of the Countryfile feature it was claimed that the Hill pony breeders believe there is an alternative to killing...featuring contraception...and then the second half of the feature promoted slaughtering and eating...certainly not an alternative to killing.  What wasn't made clear is that ponies given the contraceptive have been promoted as being for the slaughter scheme  - that's why the new drug is being trialled rather than using existing contraceptives - because the intention is for ponies on contraceptive to be put through the slaughter scheme.  Research into finding a proven equine contraceptive drug that could stop or substantially limit breeding and avoid the need for culling/slaughter was not a route that was pursued by this organisation.  The chosen contraceptive drug comes from commercial use where it is used in pig farming – it is used in male pigs intended for slaughter to stop boar taint. In our opinion, the use of the drug on Dartmoor is not about preserving the ponies - it’s about trying to convince people it is acceptable to see ponies as a by-product and to keep stallions out on the moors. The impact of the drug on the moorland environment and on the ponies themselves is still unknown.  The scheme is not about giving a contraceptive drug and then not needing to shoot/slaughter.

The reason why the Hill ponies are worth nothing is that there are too many being bred and certain Hill Pony breeders refuse to remove their stallions from the moor - forcing everyone into breeding...which results in 700 unwanted foals EVERY year - exasperating.

The Dartmoor Pony Society called for stallion removal on Dartmoor for many years. The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust also offered to pay for all stallions living out on the moor to be vasectomised but the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association have fought against these management options. Each organisation does not actually have any general control over the pony populations - ultimately decisions come down to individual pony owners.

 All the breeding of the cows and sheep on Dartmoor by the same sets of owners that own the ponies is strictly controlled and does not happen on the moor!

There are native breeds of pony in the UK whose owners thankfully take much more of a strict line with their breeding and therefore keep up the value of their ponies.  At a meeting on Dartmoor earlier in the year, The Exmoor Pony Society made it very clear that they had very few animals travel for human consumption and they do not use their derogation, opting for all Exmoor ponies to be microchipped. There is certainly much for the Dartmoor breeders to take on board in this respect from Exmoor.

A report from the Fell Pony sale in Cumbria last year was most impressive.  Minimum bids were set at 100 guineas for colt foals, 150 guineas for filly foals.  On the day all ponies sold, even older mares that were wild off the fell - the oldest going for 120 guineas.  Colts averaged 325 guineas and fillies 670 guineas. (One guinea is approx. the equivalent of £1.05).  None went to unscrupulous dealers - they all knew they were going to be priced out so didn't even bother to turn up. 

The sad thing is that the Hill pony people (not all of them, but some, and a dominant force on the moor) think it is easier to convince a nation to eat horse meat than to actually take control of their pony herds.  They are the ones that de-value them.  One Hill pony breeder at the Dartmoor meeting proudly claimed that she spends no money on her ponies at all—they cost her nothing—and we have certainly seen cases where her ponies have suffered due to this! Whilst a pure bred Dartmoor pony keeper said that it costs a lot to care for her ponies!  

So there are a lot of issues here and as things currently stand we see very little hope for the pony situation on Dartmoor - overbreeding, culling and slaughtering of ponies is going to continue for some time to doesn't have to be like that...but for the moment, sadly, that is what the ponies face.

If you would like to read more about the issues and research into the ponies on Dartmoor there is a page that explains more on the P4P page Dartmoor Ponies

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