Western Morning News 13th April 2012 - For those not in the westcountry!
The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is questioning the validity and logic of a contraception trial that is being carried out on Dartmoor's semi-feral mares.
World Horse Welfare vet Keith Meldrum working with the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (DHPA) and drug company Pfizer are planning to trial a contraceptive drug on 20 semi-feral mares as part of a project to reduce the number of unwanted foals produced each year.
The plan is to round the mares up in late spring when they will be given their first injection followed by the second dose four weeks later and a blood test after six months to confirm that their oestrus levels have been suppressed. If successful they will then receive a third dose that should last until next Spring.
Mr Meldrum confirms that the drug is licensed for use in Australia but that the whole purpose of the trial is to test it out on Dartmoor. "It is a practicality test which I am not going to predict the outcome on. let@s try and see if it works first under certain conditions."
He added: "In welfare terms unwanted foals is something we want to avoid hence the need to look at all the options to reduce the number of foals produced on Dartmoor. To remove all stallions off the moor is not a simple solution, particularly on Dartmoor and this trial may produce another way of achieving the desired result."
Dru Butterfield, charity manager for the DPHT, explained: "We are concerned that a trial involving ponies which are confined or enclosed is not a valid representation of the way pony keepers manage their stock on the open moor.
"I am sure the drug works when administered in accordance with the manufacturers specifications but this will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry out with ponies roaming loose."
She added: "Unfortunately the overall impression being given is that a successful reduction in foal numbers is just around the corner, this is not the case. We want to save the needless annual slaughter of hundreds of foals. We should encourage farmers to produce stock for a market not to destroy one."
Please see http://www.dpht.co.uk/news_article.php?r=180 for the rest of the article.