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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-12705760 and will be temporarly available on iplayer from 19.00 to 21.00 minutes here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00z88bw/Spotlight_10_03_2011/