Britain's Wild Ponies Slaughtered
And Eaten As Mad Cow Alternative
By Tania Branigan


Continental diners steering clear of beef because of BSE fears are responsible for a flourishing but brutal trade in British wild ponies, an animal welfare group said yesterday.
Compassion in World Farming said that demand for horse meat had risen dramatically, encouraging the slaughter of ponies from the New Forest for French and Belgian dinner tables.
Customs and excise figures show 12,000 horse and pony carcasses were exported from Britain to France and Belgium in 1999 - double the 1994 number. CIWF fears that figure will increase as the BSE scare continues. Sales of beef in France have fallen 40% over the last few weeks.
Almost 4,000 ponies live wild in the New Forest during the summer, but as winter approaches half of them are sold at horse markets, often for as little as just over £1.
CIWF's six-month investiga tion into the trade, which included undercover filming, revealed cruel and illegal treatment of the animals. Government guidelines state that horses require calm, sympathetic and unhurried handling, but the investigators saw ponies being slapped, kicked, wrestled to the floor and grabbed and lifted by the neck and tail. They also trailed tightly packed animals on their seven hour journey to an abattoir in Cheshire.
Peter Stevenson, political and legal director of the organisation, said: "This is a problem that will get worse not better. We would like to see tight enforcement of the laws about markets, but I would also like to see these animals not being sold for slaughter at all. The whole idea of using these horses as meat is anathema to the British public."
The organisation urged the government to launch a public inquiry into the trade and called for breeding restrictions to cut the pony population.

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