MP against hot branding

MP against hot branding

The practice of hot branding wild ponies is no longer defensible in the 21st Century and should be ended, an MP has urged the government.

Neil Parish said the method of identification was cruel and unreliable and posed wider risks as "many ponies" might end up in the food chain.

Campaigners have long criticised the use of hot irons to mark wild ponies.

Hot branding was prohibited in Scotland on welfare grounds in 2010 and the UK government is looking into the issue.

The practice - which remains legal in England and Wales - has traditionally been justified on the basis that it can help to identify an animal in distress, ascertain an animal's owner from a distance and reduce the probability of animals being stolen.

But Mr Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for the horse - which considers equine welfare issues - that hot branding was cruel and "did not work" because marks deteriorated over time and could not be read in certain conditions or when animals had been neglected.

"Many of these ponies will end up in the food chain," he said. "Maybe they will not end up being eaten at home but they will end up being eaten somewhere across Europe. They should be identified."

Some of the animals, he added, would have been treated with antibiotics and other medicines and this made traceability even more important.

"This is becoming a serious issue," he said. "In the 21st Century, I don't think we need to be hot branding ponies."

The government's chief veterinary officer is currently looking into the issue and Mr Parish said he was "optimistic" that now was the right time to make the case to ban the practice.