The DHPA, which describes its aims as the promotion, welfare and protection of Dartmoor ponies, wrote to SWEP on 15 September, asking for support for its plan to stop herds of ponies disappearing from Dartmoor by creating a market for them by killing and selling them for meat.
But SWEP, which aims to improve of the welfare of ponies and horses in Devon and Cornwall, reacted angrily to the scheme. The charity said that it had told DHPA that it would "never support over-breeding or killing ponies for profit" and that the charity did not believe that "continuing to overbreed to kill for anyone or anything’s consumption is the best solution for the ponies on the commons".
SWEP is in the process of filing a petition, which it says is against "the human consumption of Dartmoor pony meat", and will be submitted to the government.
Charlotte Faulkner, founder of DHPA, had written in her letter: "I am writing to ask whether SWEP would consider giving measured support to this understandably upsetting subject, which as pony lovers we find so hard to accept.
"It has taken years of considering reports and listening to the outcome of meetings to recognise and reluctantly accept that Dartmoor pony herders will only carry on keeping their herds if they have a sustainable market for them. We are in real danger of ponies disappearing from Dartmoor altogether."
"Strangely, having a meat trade should improve a pony's chances of finding a new home at sales," she wrote.
SWEP said on its website that other ways of controlling the numbers of horses on the moors had not been fully explored.
Another charity, the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, also expressed its outrage at DHPA’s actions, saying it was "appalling" that marketing pony meat to the public was being considered as a way of solving the problem of too many foals on Dartmoor.
"It is highly unlikely to be a success with the majority of non-horsemeat-eating British public," the charity said in a statement. "But, above all, will eating Dartmoor foals really provide a sound economic future for the Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor? A far better solution is reducing the number of foals bred."