Cull awaits the Dartmoor ponies that no one wants

A A A

The ponies that have roamed Dartmoor for 2,000 years are being culled because no one wants them.

The ponies that have roamed Dartmoor for 2,000 years are being culled because no one wants them.

Fifty years ago, there was a herd of 30,000 ponies which were used as pack animals in tin mines and for taking wool to market. Now the number has slipped to just 3,000 and the remaining animals are finding their usefulness diminishing. About 200 ponies are expected to be killed this winter because they are valueless.

Farmers on Dartmoor in south Devon breed the ponies and allow them to run free on the moorland to keep down grass and shrubs in the national park. Although they wander around untamed and untrained, each animal is owned by one of 85 farmers. Come the winter they are rounded up en masse in the "pony drifts" and returned to their owners.

Most of the male foals are sent to market to prevent fights breaking out between stallions who wish to control a herd. Also sent for auction are old ponies, who are spared the prospect of another bleak winter on the moors.

But the animals can no longer be used for dog food because of a European directive and they are less sought after as pets. Although farmers only entered their best stock at recent markets at Tavistock and Chagford, a number of animals remain unsold. A minimum asking price of £8 was placed to discourage "rescue" buyers who bid as little as 50p for a pony but cannot afford to pay for their upkeep.

As a result the Dartmoor Commoners' Council, which represents all those who have a right to graze livestock on the moor, is organising a cull.

It will be carried out in agreement with the RSPCA. Janet Kipling, the south-west spokeswoman for the charity, said culling was the only option in the short term. "There were some foals that didn't sell. They can't go back on the moor. It is against the regulations," she said."Disposal at a licensed premises humanely is the best option for these animals." John Weir, of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, said culling was necessary if there was no market demand. "There is no point having thousands of ponies on Dartmoor because we would get a major welfare issue," he said.

Maurice Retallick, a Dartmoor commoner who farms near Newton Abbot, said an abundance of winter food meant fewer ponies would be culled than last year, when foot-and-mouth regulations were in force.

"This happens as a last resort as a result of farmers not having the food or space to look after them," he said.

Maureen Rolls, of the campaign group South West Equine Protection, accused farmers of breeding too many ponies. "What is the point of breeding them if they're going to be shot?" she said.The pressure group is calling for stallions to be taken off the moor to control breeding of the herds.

Other possible remedies include a scheme to control the number of stallions on the moor and promote trekking to provide work for the ponies.

Dartmoor National Park Authority is in talks with officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on providing maintenance subsidies for farmers who own ponies.

Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing