Failure to manage the wild and captive populations of Dartmoor Hill Ponies has led one Devon-based charity to suggest a radical free-market approach to conserving the species, by selling Dartmoor pony meat for British dinner tables.
In a letter leaked by another local charity that was angered by the move, the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (DHPA) lamented the present state of care and population levels of the semi-feral horses which now number only a few hundred, down from tens of thousands in the last century.
In her letter, DHPA founder Charlotte Faulkner suggests creating a market for pony meat would increase their value, and therefore conditions and herd numbers: “Dartmoor pony herders will only carry on keeping their herds if they have a sustainable market for them. We are in real danger of ponies disappearing from Dartmoor altogether.
“Strangely, having a meat trade should improve a ponies chances of finding a new home at sales… [this is especially important] as there is talk of the current ban on live exports being overturned, with echoes of horrific conditions of unlicenced slaughter houses [on the continent]”.
Used by locals for centuries to work in quarrying and tin mining, the horses are now invaluable to the ecology of Dartmoor national park as they eat the fast growing gorse which would otherwise choke the moor. Despite their importance to the local ecosystem, the ponies are of almost no monetary value to horse breeders and pony herders in the 21st century and can change hands for as little as £10.
Although putting ponies on the plate to reverse population decline may seem counter-intuitive, when Breitbart London spoke to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation today they cited the Grey Partridge as an example where this has worked before. Once very common and widespread, the Grey Partridge suffered from habitat loss but is now recovering thanks to repopulation schemes paid for by managed shooting for the table.
London-based author of Flogging a Dead Horse: A Cookbook Caroline Roddis also agrees with the plan, and said boosting the value to humans of Dartmoor Ponies by seeing them as food was the best way to increase numbers. Speaking to Breitbart London, she said: “Although many people prefer to pretend it’s not happening, there are serious horse welfare issues that need to be addressed in the UK, and raising horses’ value through the creation of a horsemeat market will both sustain equine populations and ensure that they receive much better treatment while they are alive.
“Horsemeat is not only delicious, with a slightly sweeter, gamier taste than beef, but is also very good for you. It’s an excellent source of protein and contains twice as much iron on average than beef, as well as zinc, magnesium, and three times the calcium. In some countries doctors recommend that children, pregnant women and the elderly regularly consume horsemeat to boost their immune systems”.
South West Equine Protection, who were asked to support the move but have strongly opposed it, called using demand for unusual meats in the UK as a means to preserve dwindling populations “complete hypocrisy” and insist sterilising stallions and giving mares hysterectomies is a better, if more expensive way to conserve Dartmoor’s hill ponies.