Friday, 22 April 2011

BBC1 Countryfile covers mass slaughter of Dartmoor Hill Ponies

On Sunday 17th April 2011, BBC Countryfile featured the plight of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies.  Click here and fastforward to 15.56 minutes to watch the feature:

The programme features South West Equine Protection (a registered charity on Dartmoor that does welfare callouts), Andrew Goatman (slaughterman), Dartmoor National Park Authority (promoting conservation grazing by the ponies), the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (with Mary Alford, breeder, in defence of the slaughter scheme), Dartmoor Zoological Park (which now sells Dartmoor Hill Pony meat to other zoos), and the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (which handles and adds value to "pure-bred" Dartmoor ponies - fewer, quality ponies being bred achieves a better price).

Wild Ponies SW would like to make the following points about the quotations below from the feature: 

  • There is no Dartmoor Hill Pony "breed".  "Hill" pony is a general term used for unregistered ponies born on Dartmoor.  There is no "breed standard", grade, or pedigree.  There were no "problems" with the ponies being culled - they were described as "lively" but they were wild, unhandled, unwanted ponies - bred for no purpose.
  • How can killing nearly half of the population of Hill Ponies in a year (and feeding them to tigers, lions and bears) be helping to preserve the ponies?  Why was this scheme set up by the very pony association which is supposed to support Hill ponies?  Are the DHPA saying that none of the 800-1500 Hill ponies culled met the "breed standard" and so weren't worth keeping?  The zoos were already well supplied with meat from other sources.
  • In answer to Mary Alford's reply of "What are we supposed to do with them?  Is there an answer to that?" - Yes...Take ALL the Hill Pony stallions off the moor, and stop indiscriminately breeding large numbers of unwanted foals.    Breeders of Heritage and pure-bred Dartmoor ponies are not in this situation because they responded to the market conditions a long time ago.  They looked for responsible ways of keeping ponies, and now their ponies are valued for what they are, and continue to make a good price.

Quotes from the programme:

- "Despite appearances, they're not actually wild, all the ponies are owned by farmers who are responsible for their welfare"  Tom Heap, Countryfile presenter.

- "From the end of January to the middle of March this year, we were doing 3 welfare callouts a week, split between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moors".  Faye Stacey, South West Equine Protection.

- How have these 4 [ponies] been selected? 
"They've all got problems, they're basically not up to the standard which you would be able to sell them for riding ponies, a couple of these are quite lively and there's just not a market for those kind of ponies".
Does that actually mean they are unhealthy, or have they just not met the grade in terms of the pedigree for sale?
"It's not met the grade, would be a better way of putting it, it doesn't matter what animal you breed, a certain number will always not make the sale standard". Andrew Goatman, slaughterman.

- "The ponies are a incredibly important as a major conservation tool, to deliver the biodiversity and the landscape that the public love to visit" Robert Stevenson, DNP.

- Do you find it sad that they're having to be culled, or is that a bit of a soft outsider's view?
"It's the same as the cattle and the sheep, and, it's natural, you know, part of our traditional Dartmoor farming system".
So, it's not just the case that people are either lazy in letting them overbreed, or possibly greedy and wanting to breed for cash?
"No, no, the pony breeding on Dartmoor is a very old traditional way and it's been done for many, many generations."
And what would you say to people who look at animals being culled and, you know, feel very unhappy about that?
"What are we supposed to do with them? [long pause] Is there an answer to that"? Mary Alford, Dartmoor Hill Pony Association.

- "One of these large carnivores can probably get through one pony a week...We've recently been licensed by Defra to provide meat to other zoos, which plays an important role in the conservation of the Dartmoor Pony breed".  George Hyde, Dartmoor Zoological Park.

- "Both these ponies were bought at the auction for ten pounds each, and I have the market catalogue here, and both of them were described as making lovely child's riding ponies...And both of these ponies are actually blind". 

"People are going to market and buying ponies which are completely unhandled, your average horse owner that could go to the market a pick her [a pony] up for ten pounds, just isn't going to have the skills to be able to cope with her" [Talking about a spotted pony that went to 6 homes after being bought at auction because no-one could do anything with her]. Faye Stacey, South West Equine Protection.

- "Handling is a financial opportunity to add value...The market place should be hungry and pay for a quality animal, rather than having hungry lions eating them.  If they're not worth anything, in essence, we won't have Dartmoor ponies.  It's a simple as that". Dru Butterfield, Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust.

Horrendous Hot Branding of Dartmoor Hill Pony

People4ponies have posted pictures on their website of a "Hill" pony on Dartmoor with a horrendous brand mark - the brand is so bad that the pony has a large area of 3rd degree burns.  Why is the RSPCA the last organisation to decide whether this practice is cruel or not?   The charity also found ponies which had been illegally read more, visit:

Monday, 21 March 2011

Slaughtering of Dartmoor Hill Ponies features on BBC Radio 4 Open Country

On Saturday 19th March 2011, BBC radio 4's Open Country programme focussed on the current plight of the ponies on Dartmoor.  It includes the presenter, Helen Mark, witnessing a pony slaughter in progress. 

The feature includes interviews with Andrew Goatman (slaughterman), Dartmoor National Park, South West Equine Protection, the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, and breeder John French (who breeds traditional Dartmoor ponies).  As well as the culling itself, the interviewees discuss the overbreeding of ponies on the moor, the idea of ponies being a "by-product" of conservation grazing and being used for zoo meat, the previous export of Dartmoor to Italy/Spain for their skins and meat, and ultimately what the future will be for the ponies on Dartmoor when so many are being killed. 

You can listen to the programme here:

Thursday, 10 March 2011

BBC Spotlight feature claiming "Dartmoor Hill Ponies are in danger of becoming extinct"

On Thursday 10th March 2011, BBC Spotlight (regional BBC news for Devon and Cornwall) featured a news story headlining that Dartmoor Hill Ponies are in danger of becoming extinct.  The feature claimed that the number of ponies on the moor has dropped from 30,000 at the beginning of the century to just 1,500 in 2011. 

This is an extraordinary stance for the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association to be taking when they have culled a huge number of ponies in 2010 and 2011.  Last autumn the number culled on Dartmoor by one slaughterman was 700...culling has continued all the way through to the spring.  The total number culled will probably be never released, but it will be far beyond 700 ponies.  After culling so many ponies, should they be complaining to the media that the ponies are at risk of becoming extinct?

In the feature, a farmer, Mr Goddard, claims that farmers keep the ponies for love not money.  He states "I think personally, yes, there’ll always be ponies on the moor but people will keep them because they actually love them, they like seeing them, they like the social side of going out and gathering them once a year, it is the last thing on Dartmoor that everybody works together to do at gathering time and all neighbouring farmers help each other out".

Perhaps Mr Goddard could explain to the public:
- Why have so many ponies been culled when they are apparently at risk of being extinct?
- If the ponies are at risk of losing their hardiness (as claimed in the feature), why have farmers been so irresponsible with their breeding to cause this problem?
-  If farmers are keeping ponies because of the love of the ponies, then why are there still cases of pony neglect and suffering out on Dartmoor?
- Why are farmers only able to work together at the drifts and not during the rest of the year?  ALL the breeders should be working together to make Dartmoor, Devon, and the UK proud of having ponies on the moor that are free from neglect and suffering, that are responsibly bred, and responsibly managed.

There are some good, responsible pony breeders on the moor...but their reputation continues to suffer from the irresponsible breeding and management of other pony farmers.

The BBC story can be seen here and will be temporarly available on iplayer from 19.00 to 21.00 minutes here:

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Bodmin Ponies Rescued - DEFRA finally act after pressure from SWEP and the media

On Saturday 26th February, the Western Morning News reported that 19 ponies have been rescued, thanks to their original article about dead and neglected ponies discovered on Bodmin Moor by charity South West Equine Protection.

It says that "Close co-operation between a number of groups and agencies - including commoners, Animal Health, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Cornwall County Council, the RSPCA and the police - ensured that all animals were removed safely and with the minimum of distress."

SWEP say that they "We have had a great reaction to the article, which has really put the spotlight on this important issue, so we owe a huge thanks to the Western Morning News and its readers...This is such a wonderful result for the ponies - it has been weeks since our initial email to the authorities stating that there was a serious equine welfare problem on this common that required a roundup and inspection".

The ponies are now being cared for by Redwings Sanctuary.

Article in the WMN -

SWEP press release:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"Wild Ponies of Bodmin Moor are Dying of Neglect... FIVE Rotting Carcasses are Found in Three Weeks" is the headline of the Daily Mail article highlighting the situation in Cornwall uncovered by the charity South West Equine Protection (SWEP). 

They say that despite following the correct procedure of reporting breaches of the Animal Welfare Act, the authorities are preventing them from getting the starving animals the care that they need.

The full SWEP press release can be found here:

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Dead Ponies on Bodmin Moor - Bodmin Ponies Dying and Neglected

On Tuesday 15th February 2011, BBC Spotlight and the Western Morning News covered a story about the deaths of ponies on Bodmin Moor.  Equine charity South West Equine Protection (SWEP) say that they have found 5 dead ponies on the moor in the last 3 weeks and that there are 3 emaciated ponies that need help.

In the SWEP press release, which contains shocking images of ponies they have found on the moor, they say that the local authorities have not been responding to the situation.  They state that they contacted the relevant authorities with this information and were told that "Defra Animal Health and Trading Standards had no concerns over the welfare of the ponies on this common".  The authorities now say they are investigating the case, but they find it difficult to identify the owners of the ponies on the moor.

BBC Spotlight story:

Western Morning News front page:

SWEP press release:

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Disturbing photographs of Dartmoor Hill Ponies being slaughtered are published

Disturbing photographs of Dartmoor Hill Ponies being slaughtered as part of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association's shocking "sustainable welfare scheme", at Dartmoor Zoological Park, have been published on the internet.  

On Wednesday 13th October 2010, Charlotte Faulkner from the DHPA featured on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme in a story about the ponies on Dartmoor, and told listeners that the Hill ponies do not go for meat, but are sold as riding ponies...


Page 1 of photos (click here) Charlotte Faulkner and Benjamin Mee, along with ponies being dismembered.

Page 2 of photos (select page 2 once on page link above) This is the most graphic page of photos and includes severed heads of ponies, one of which is a foal.

Page 3 of photos (select page 3 once on page link above) - 2 photos of a wild Dartmoor Hill pony, and 2 photos of a severed head. 

Monday, 3 January 2011

"Remove stallions off moor" says chairman of the Dartmoor Pony Society

On Friday 24th December, the Western Morning News published a response by Paul Taylor, chairman of the Dartmoor Pony Society, to the current culling on Dartmoor.  This society is for the pure bred, registered, pedigree Dartmoor ponies.  Pedigree ponies are not being culled as part of the recent "sustainable welfare scheme" - that scheme has been set up for Dartmoor Hill Ponies, by the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association.

Paul Taylor makes it clear that it is the Hill Pony keepers who are to blame for the current situation.  He also points out that the supposed Irish market for non-registered, semi feral ponies, from Dartmoor would most likely be as live exports to the continent for meat.  Paul Taylor is quoted as saying: "The answer to the pony problem on Dartmoor is not to blame the recession, a downturn in hill-farm profits, a fall in demand for the ponies, the cost of passports, microchipping or the new transportation laws but to use a sensible economic approach to the problem.

Remove the stallions from the moor for a period of one or two years so that during that time no foals are born and therefore none will need to be slaughtered.

This is the approach already being operated by responsible pony keepers and breeders of Pedigree Dartmoor and Heritage Dartmoor ponies on areas of the moor".