A Welsh equine charity has launched a campaign to prevent ponies from working underground

An equine welfare centre in South Wales is campaigning for the government to outlaw the useof pit ponies in underground mines.

Although no ponies are presently working underground, The Fforest Uchaf Horse & Pony Rehabilitation Centre, which is home to a number of former pit ponies, is concerned that ponies may be pressed backinto service if the demand for coal rises.

The charity has evidence that ponies remain the cheapest way for coal to be transported underground. In 1998, it was estimated that replacing a single pit pony with machinery, would cost around £57,000.

“A number of private colliery owners, which still have unmined coal reserves, have kept their ponies and equipment,” said Roy Peckham from the sanctuary. “We want a complete ban on the use of ponies underground to prevent ponies from working down the pits if they reopen.”

The centre has submitted extensive photographic evidence of the welfare problems suffered by pit ponies to DEFRA, which is currently reviewing animal welfare legislation. It has also sent its proposal to the Welsh Assembly.

“The present laws regarding pit ponies date back to 1956, when there was little knowledge of the physical damage which results from working in mines. Many of the ponies at our centre will suffer for the rest of their lives from the effects of inhaling coal dust and drinking water from the mines.”

If not successful in attaining a complete ban, the centre would like tighter rules on working conditions, including protection for the ponies from dust and more regular veterinary inspections.

“Although ponies may not be working underground at the moment, this review provides DEFRA with an ideal opportunity to ensure this archaic process is consigned to the history books,” says Roy.

The centre has organised a petition to encourage the government to act on this issue, which is available via email.

Visit www.pitponies.co.uk or email roy@pitponies.co.uk for more information.

Read more welfare stories: