Missing pregnant ponies feared to have been taken abroad and made into handbags
Scores of pregnant ponies have been herded into lorries and allegedly shipped for slaughter.
Campaigners claim trucks arrived at night to pick up 90 animals, including many heavily pregnant mares and newborn foals.
Faye Stacey, head of the charity People4Ponies, said: “The ponies have most likely gone abroad for meat or to make handbags.
“It makes me despair. This has all happened because of the apparent complete inaction, or ineffectiveness, of those who are supposed to enforce laws that protect ponies.”
Defra vets and neighbouring farmers on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, reported the ponies’ owner to Cornwall Council Trading Standards.
It is responsible for enforcing livestock laws which ban the movement of pregnant livestock.
But Cornwall Council says it decided not to prosecute the elderly farmer because he had been ruled “clinically unfit to stand trial” in an earlier case involving cattle.
Julie Dowton, welfare officer for the Bodmin Moor Commons Council which governs pony keepers, said: “We are being repeatedly asked by the farming community and members of the public what happened to them. Sadly we don’t know.
“However we are aware of correspondence from Cornwall Council saying the ponies have been culled.”
A Cornwall Council spokesman said it had been “very active over many years” to ensure the welfare of livestock on Bodmin Moor.
He added: “We gave further formal advice to the farmer’s family on the welfare and identification requirements relating to the clearance and subsequent transportation of the ponies off the moor.
“We are aware of the allegations relating to the transport of the ponies in question and have asked for evidence to be provided so that an investigation can take place.
“We have not been provided with such evidence to allow us to take the matter any further.”