Calls are mounting for farmers to micro-chip wild Exmoor ponies for visible identification and theft deterrence instead of branding with hot irons.
Farmers are facing fresh calls to stop the "cruel" branding of wild Exmoor ponies.
Every year Exmoor farmers brand hundreds of foals for visible identification and theft deterrence.
But animal organisation People 4 Ponies says that micro-chipping of the ponies, made compulsory in 2009 under EU law, means that branding is now unnecessary.
Branding has already been banned in the UK for cows and sheep, but farmers say they still need to brand ponies.
'Not particularly nice'
Farmers say that ponies can be very volatile in the wild and until a micro-chip reader is effective at some distance from the ponies, they have no choice but to brand.
Rex Milton, president of Exmoor Pony Society, told BBC News: "Who would like the thought of being branded?
"It is not particularly nice but it has been proven over the years to be one of the most effective ways to identify ponies.
"Very often I will get a call about a pony in distress that has been hit by a car on the open moorland.
Branding helps identify fallen ponies quickly say famers
"I will ask if they managed to identify it and many people will give me the number which gives us tremendous clues about where to find the pony, what age it is and hopefully we can get on top of the problem very quickly."
The People 4 Ponies organisation, which rehabilitates ponies traumatised by branding and other identification procedures, says branding has a serious effect on the ponies' wellbeing.
Paul King from People 4 Ponies said: "Branding is very painful.
"It is just barbaric in this day and age for human beings to be doing such terrible things.
"It is a grotesque thing to do to a pony or any animal to burn it with a hot iron."
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