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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Apprenticeship Tutor Assessors and Verifiers

£24000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprenticeship Tutor Assessors ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This organization has been a trusted partner t...

Recruitment Genius: Buyer / Planner

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity has ar...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks