Friday, 24 December 2010

People4ponies condemns culling of ponies on Dartmoor

People4ponies is the third, Devon based, equine charity (along with SWEP and the DPHT) to speak out against the culling of ponies.

In their recent blog entry, People4ponies states that "people4ponies believes that it is unethical and immoral to use culling as a method of breeding control". 

They also point out that "If there are organisations that have been selectively breeding and promoting the ponies for years, how has the situation got so bad?"

Friday, 17 December 2010

South West Equine Protection (SWEP) speaks out against the cull

SWEP is one of the longest running equine charities on Dartmoor.  They have issued the following press release regarding the slaughter of ponies on Dartmoor as part of a "sustainable welfare system".  Important points have been highlighted in red:

700 Dartmoor Ponies Slaughtered

December 17th, 2010

You may have recently been reading articles in the local and national press regarding 700 Dartmoor Ponies slaughtered by knackerman Andrew Goatman.

We would like to make it clear that this is something that has been going on for years and the economic climate has changed things very little. We feel it is wrong to blame the recession for this increase in ponies being slaughtered. We have been helping with this appalling situation for years putting out appeals to rehome those ponies with uncertain futures.

Farmers are more than aware of the situation yet seem to carry on with their poor management and continue to allow stallions run the moor for the majority of the year. The overbreeding and slaughter of these ponies has been brought into the press as this horrific problem yet most of the mares on the moor will be in foal already to give birth next year. Will the same story be more horrific next year and what will the numbers be??!! The 700 reported with Andrew Goatman is only a proportion of the real number. How many ponies have gone through other slaughter houses and how many have been destroyed on farms by farmers?

 The answer is not to have a “welfare disposal system”, but to stop the constant breeding. Get farmers to take their stallions off of the moor and then not produce so many foals each year.

SWEP help the ponies it can each year and the majority it takes in are colts. We are a very small charity and what we do help is a drop in the ocean when you think of the numbers in this article. Another issue constantly being raised is the deformities in foals due to inbreeding. Again this is to poor management of the farmers. We will keep up the hard work and ensure that people are aware of these problem.

SWEP will continue to ensure people are aware of the problem and hope that regulations can be brought in to ristrict the breeding of Dartmoor ponies and therefore the number having to be slaughtered will be reduced.

If you can help in any way with our fight please do not hesitate to contact us.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Dartmoor Ponies: Saving an endangered species?

In recent newspaper articles, we have been told that ponies on Dartmoor are an endangered species.  Is it really logical that one endangered species is being slaughtered to feed another endangered species in a zoo?  Meat from 250 of the 700 culled ponies is being used to feed tigers (which are also classified as an endangered species) in zoos.

Reference has been made to the fact that ponies are rarer than the giant panda...but why is there a double standard...We never hear reports about hundreds of pandas being slaughtered as part of a "sustainable welfare scheme" and fed to tigers in zoos...or about pandas being sent to regional markets to an uncertain fate...or about them being travelled long distances to be slaughtered for their skins.  Why on Dartmoor are we proud to state we have an endangered breed, and yet we are not able to manage the pony populations in a responsible way? 

If you are considering donating money to help these ponies, please make sure that you know how your money will be spent - is it going to be spent in a way that ensures the future of the ponies, or will it instead support/fund continuing indiscriminate breeding and slaughtering as part of an ongoing "sustainable welfare scheme"?  Ultimately, this issue does not come down to needing large sums of money.  It is simply a case of removing stallions from the moor and maintaining a responsible breeding programme.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Shocking articles exposing the slaughter of Dartmoor ponies

Media coverage on the slaughter of Dartmoor ponies has continued this weekend.  The Guardian published this shocking story on Saturday 11th December:
"A Trebor strong mint presented on the flat of his palm is all it takes to lure the Dartmoor hill pony to its death. As it eagerly approaches from within its holding pen, knackerman Andrew Goatman slowly raises his other hand behind the three-year-old mare's head and releases the boltgun into a one-inch "sweet spot" just above the eyes on her forelock. The pony slumps to the floor. Within five hours of her death, she is being butchered, ready to be fed to the lions and other carnivores at a local zoo...

...With the dead mare now hanging from a hook by one of her hind legs, Goatman uses his knife to swiftly sever the head from the body. In less than 30 minutes, he has removed the hoofs and guts – including a four-month-old foetus – and halved the remaining carcass with a specialist chainsaw. After tipping blue food dye over the meat to mark that it's not fit for human consumption, Goatman hoses the spilt blood into the drain before moving on to repeat the process on a dead foal..."

This story was featured in the Daily Mail on 10th December:

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dartmoor Hill Pony Association statement

From the following link:  (important parts for discussion are highlighted in red)

"I think you are doing a valuable job at highlighting the issues we are facing on the moor...The various herds are all owned and managed by farmers but to ensure that the ponies do not group together to form one big herd and therefore graze the moor unevenly, the use of stallions is vital as they keep their own mares to their own 'lear' and do not stray to other areas therefore ensuring that grazing levels are balanced all over the moor. Therefore it is not possible to simply "stop" breeding unless valid forms of contraception could be introduced...

...The farmers earn very little money from keeping ponies and it is now a labour of love rather than a profit making enterprise. They want to keep the moor looking as it traditionally always has and should.  Charlotte Faulkner, who has worked very hard on behalf of the ponies for the past 10 years has said "at the moment the markets for foals from the moor are at rock bottom as a result of credit crunch and legislation. This creates a welfare problem as they cannot go back on the moor and the breeders cannot keep them in all winter. I realise now that we must face the bleak reality that we must put our own bottom in the market in order for the future of the ponies on and off the moor to be secured. This has sadly led to the introduction of a sustainable welfare management scheme for those ponies we have to take off the moor but for whatever reason cannot provide a home for, in the two reports commissioned by the National Park on the future of the ponies the same conclusion is drawn. We now have a purpose built local ³humane welfare disposal site, taking ponies straight from the farms to slaughter. This is proving to be a sustainable scheme where by the farmer¹s breed ponies of which the quality ponies go to the sale, and those who don¹t make the grade for whatever reason are dealt with, with compassion and without suffering ordeals of long journeys, going to more sales once they leave Dartmoor etc. It would mean we are no longer in this cleft stick of needing the ponies for conservation on the moor and not having anywhere for them to go, as sterilisation is still not feasible and other methods of not producing so many young stock are still being worked upon."

Ponies are needed on the moor, but it is not possible for the farmers to stop breeding."

On Wednesday 13th October 2010, Charlotte Faulkner from the DHPA featured on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme, in a story about the drifts (pony round-ups) on Dartmoor.  When explaining about what happens to the ponies, we were told they do not go for meat and that they are bought for riding ponies.  When asked about how the farmers know which ponies belong to them, it was stated that it was because the farmers "recognise" them.  Now we discover that, in fact, a large number of drifted Hill ponies were going to be culled by the DHPA, and their carcasses used for meat.  This contradicts what we were told in the BBC interview.  It was also disguised that ponies could be "recognised" from ear mutilations. 

In this DHPA statement, it is admitted that unwanted Hill ponies have been sent off on long journeys and endured suffering (presumably, just like the ponies that ended up at Maurs?? How many more have had to endure such journeys and suffering?). 

Reports from Dartmoor suggest that culling of ponies is something that has been happening for many years.  As things stand, next year will be no different.  Mares out on the moor will already be pregnant with next year's crop of foals - foals that are born, only to be culled as part of a "sustainable welfare scheme".  The large scale, indiscriminate breeding continues, and yet, we are told there are fears that Hill ponies will become extinct!  We are also told that there are not enough ponies on the moor for conservation grazing.  This website has highlighted so many incidences of poor management of these ponies on the moor...ponies that are victims of a supposed "labour of love".

There doesn't seem to be any evidence to suggest that taking stallions off the moor would cause it to be unevenly grazed, or that the ponies would group together to form one huge herd.  Studies of equine herd behaviour show that it is not the stallion who is "in-charge" of a herd, but the lead mare.  The area that wild ponies regularly use is known as a home range and there is usually a pattern to where they are found.  Sue Baker's research states that "A home range is the part of the environment an animal or herd of animals uses for its day to day life and is completely familiar with.  It contains all the resources the herd needs for food, water, shelter, and rearing the young.  So, the range must be large enough to supply all the ponies' needs but is not limitless.  This is because under truly natural conditions, the farther the animals wander, the more likely they are to encounter dangers.  The smaller the range is, the better the ponies will know it.  Thus, when disturbed or frightened, they will know exactly the safe routes to follow and the places of refuge".  

Whilst the DHPA has ensured that ponies aren't sold for a couple of pounds at the markets, it appears that the increased price of some ponies has only encouraged farmers to continue breeding more.  Whilst this continues, it undermines any long-term progress.  The current scheme still sees "quality" ponies unsold at market, and farmers still maintain that they are not making much money from the ponies that are sold. 

There needs to be change if there is truly going to be sustainable management of these ponies.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust press release

From the DPHT website: (this organisation works with and promotes wild, native Dartmoor ponies, which are different to the Dartmoor Hill ponies featured in the press) 

"Western Morning News and Daily Express - DPHT response to the front page articles regarding the culling of 700 ponies on Dartmoor. Sadly this news has not come as a surprise. The DPHT has and will continue to campaign for Pony Keepers on Dartmoor to control the number of foals produced. There are currently no licenced equine contraceptives available in this country. We believe the only answer to the current problem, is to remove stallions and where this is not possible to use vasectomised stallions. The DPHT has already paid for one stallion to have this relatively simple operation. The stallion has successfully kept his herd of mares out of foal to date. The DPHT is committed to restoring the Dartmoor Pony marketplace through a range of initiatives...The DPHT will continue to provide pony keepers with the support they need to make the right decisions to curb the annual foal crop and to add value to the good quality foals which are produced".

In a previous press release, the DPHT stated: "The DPHT does not agree with culling of stock as a management solution to over production".

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Tavistock market cancelled due to weather

Tavistock pony market, which was due to take place on December 4th, was cancelled due to the weather conditions.  155 ponies had been entered into the market, the majority of them were foals. What will happen to the ponies that were destined for this market?    

"Slaughter of Dartmoor ponies" in the national press

The disclosure of the numbers of Hill ponies shot this year by one slaughterman on Dartmoor has been picked up by the national press.  Today, the story was covered by The Daily Express, The Daily Mail and The Sun newspapers.  The stories can be found here:

Friday, 3 December 2010

"Shock as 700 ponies culled"

The front page story of the Western Morning News on the 3rd December 2010, reveals that "More than 700 unwanted Dartmoor ponies have been shot on farms this year, with their carcasses being sent to zoos to feed the animals...Knackerman Andrew Goatman told the Western Morning News that 700 ponies, ranging from foals to four year olds have been shot this year."

For the full story, click on the following link: