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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Wild pony round-up beats ban
Dartmoor Drift
The round-up dates back centuries
The historic autumn round-up of wild ponies on Dartmoor has been given the go-ahead after fears it would be halted by foot-and-mouth disease.

Concerns were raised about ponies dying on the moors if the Department for Rural Affairs (Defra) ruled against the centuries-old tradition known as the Drift.

Now officials have said it can take place, with strict conditions on disinfecting vehicles, animals and people taking part.

Pony sales that traditionally follow the Drift can also take place if auctioneers are willing to hold them.

Pony round-up
Commoners graze 3,000 wild ponies on Dartmoor
Ponies have sold for as little as 1 each, which is not enough to cover the cost of holding, feeding and disinfecting the animals.

Ponies cannot contract foot-and-mouth disease because they do not have cloven hooves, but they can carry the infection to other animals.

Last month Brian Kind, administrator of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary at Chudleigh, Devon, said younger animals would die if left on the high moors.

Colts left to roam would cause a risk of over breeding - and damaging the integrity of the ancient breed.

Grazing rights

The Dartmoor Commoners Council has welcomed Defra's decision.

The Drift is a highlight of the calendar for the commoners, who hold grazing rights in the national park.

Many people turn out to watch the moor's 3,000 wild ponies being gathered in each year.

But there are concerns about the eventual fate of many of the animals.

Some are sold for pet food, and Mr Kind believes that others end up in Spanish carousel rides - similar to traditional fairground rides, but with chained live ponies.

See also:

13 Jul 00 | Wales
Concern at 'ponies for 1'
05 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Conservationists rely on pony power
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