Contraceptive injections start for Dartmoor pony herd
Dartmoor ponies are being given contraceptive injections in a bid to control the number of unwanted foals.
The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association said foals were not in demand in the current economic climate and the project could prevent young unsold ponies from being slaughtered.
It added that adult numbers needed to be maintained because their grazing benefited the local ecology.
Twenty animals will be injected and also microchipped to monitor them.'Cheaper than re-homing'
Work on the trial project, which was announced in October, started on Wednesday morning.
Vet Keith Meldrum said: "The purpose of the trial is to allow owners to keep their good adult breeding mares and bring them into foal later if they want to do so."
Maureen Rolls, from South West Equine Protection, said that although the drugs would work, it could not be a large-scale solution.
She said: "We're dealing with feral ponies, and while they may be able to round them up and inject them, the cost of the ponies does not warrant the costs of the injections."
However, Charlotte Faulkner, founder of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association and one of the other vets involved, said controlling the numbers of unwanted foals would help animal welfare.
She said: "It's less expensive than trying to re-home hundreds of foals."
There are no drugs in the UK that will allow fertility control of horses.
The drugs have been donated by pharmaceuticals company Pfizer, and imported from Australia.
The government issued a special licence for the contraceptive to be imported into the UK.
If the trial is successful, organisers said it could be expanded to control the populations of other native horses and ponies in areas such as the New Forest, Exmoor and Bodmin.