Pony meat goes on sale for human consumption

In a move to prevent culling, Dartmoor ponies are finding their way into the kitchen. 

To control levels of grazing and habitat, Natural England only allows certain numbers of animals out on the moor – this includes cattle and sheep, as well as ponies.

However, due to the restricted numbers allowed to graze, this year only 50 foals have joined the grazing herds of approximately 900 ponies, this is compared to 400 foals that were shot.

“At the moment, they cannot go back out on the commons because of the fact that Natural England only allows so many ponies and sheep and cattle on the moor grazing,” said Charlotte Faulkner, from the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association.

“To be honest, if you’re going to put something out, you’re likely to put out a cow or a sheep because that’s likely to produce an income for you whereas a pony isn’t.”

A series of guidelines has been set out to overcome the issue of hundreds of ponies being unnecessarily shot.

This includes:
•    Breeding less or managing the breeding to create an age strata of the herd to add value to the ponies and ensuring an end use.
•    Decreasing the number of breeding mares but keeping herd numbers the same by introducing young ponies.
•    Increasing the number of young female stock on the moor who will not breed until they are three years of age and using contraception on the older mares. At the age of three, ponies are the correct age to train, or can go for meat.

In essence, it is suggested that foals should not be shot at birth but kept until they are three years old. At that age the pony’s owner has the option to either use the animal for meat or train it for riding.

If the latter does not work out for the farmer, then he will have a fall-back plan and can use it as meat. This plan improves the chance of a foal growing up and being trained for life.

However, the strategic plan hasn’t been welcomed by everyone. Faulkner explained that there is a 50/50 split, which is mainly related to where people are geographically situated.

Those who live in the Dartmoor area understand the necessity of the actions, whereas some just see the finished produce as a product.

“It’s very locally based. The people who are supporting it do so because they actually understand the value of the ponies,” commented Faulkner.


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