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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 18:58 GMT
Passport threat to wild ponies
Dartmoor ponies
The Dartmoor ponies are exempt from the new EU law
Rare ponies roaming upland in Snowdonia could disappear under new European Union rules governing wild horses.

The new laws due to be introduced in February means that Welsh Mountain Ponies will require 75 passports.

They are designed to protect human health in countries where horsemeat is commonly eaten.

But the ponies are valued at a few pounds each and farmers may decide that they will not be able to afford to keep them.

Between 300 and 400 of the animals live in the mountains of north Wales and are an important part of Wales' culture, according to the Snowdonia Society.

The society wants the ponies to be exempt from the law like other breeds on Dartmoor and in the New Forest in England.

It's ironic that a strike of a bureaucrat's pen could put an end to 400 years of history
Rob Owen, Snowdonia Society

But the Welsh Assembly Government says the exemption made in England was not seen as workable in Wales.

Rob Owen, the Snowdonia Society's policy director, said ponies in other part of Wales, such as the Brecon Beacons, were also under threat.

"We want to save the ponies because they have an original blood line stretching back about 400 years," he said.

"They have not mixed with any other breed and it would be a travesty if they were used for horse meat.

"It's ironic that a strike of a bureaucrat's pen could put an end to 400 years of history.

"The ponies are an important part of Welsh history and north Wales culture."

Mr Owen said the ponies were hardy and seldom suffered illnesses.

"We want the ponies made exempt of the EU law like the ponies are in England," added Mr Owen.

"Ponies in the Brecon Beacons are facing a similar problem, but the north Wales ponies have a more pure blood line."

Snowdonia National Park
Welsh Mountain Ponies roam 70,000 acres in the park

An assembly government spokeswoman said the final decision about the ponies' future would be made by the European Union.

"English legislation provides concessions for ponies in the New Forest and on Dartmoor," said the spokeswoman.

"However, should ponies leave either the New Forest or Dartmoor then they would require passports.

The spokeswoman said a similar relaxation was not regarded as viable for Wales.

That is because the hills and commons of Wales, on which the ponies graze, do not have clearly defined boundaries - like the New Forest or Dartmoor - and the ponies are not managed by a single body, she said.




SEE ALSO:
Pony 'critical' after farm attack
10 Nov 04 |  Derbyshire
Concerns over horse passports
23 Nov 03 |  Devon



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