Pony Skin Rucksack (2010)

Practical, stylish, comfortable, free range pony skin rucksack raised organically on Devon’s wild moorland.

An ideal accessory for the environmentally conscious walker the bag is handcrafted by fine leather maker Tony Piper out Devon moorland pony skin, a waste product created by contemporary land management practices. Moorland ponies are mostly kept as pets or used by the authorities for keeping vegetation under control for the benefit of walkers on moors. However over the past 15 years human use of the ponies, and hence their economic value, has declined. With little market demand farmers are forced to humanely cull older, infirm and unwanted animals each year in order to keep the whole population sustainable, a matter of much dispute.

25L capacity, approximate dimensions h 50cm x w 50cm x d 40cm. Materials: Devon moorland pony skin, kid leather interior, cattle leather straps with tough polypropelene webbing and buckles. Wind and rain resistant. The skin is sourced from a licensed hide and leather dealer.

Exhibited at Art, Ecology and the Economy, 16 January – 28 March 2010, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, Haldon, Exeter

When I first moved to Dartmoor I used to love seeing the new foals appear each spring but now I find it heart-breaking knowing that most won’t make it beyond the autumn. No ponies (or any other animal) should end up in landfill! I’m not a vegetarian and believe that the best should be made of every part of an animal that is killed for meat. But ponies aren’t – at least not for human consumption – nor do we drink their milk. If it’s not right to eat them then it is clearly going to be a sensitive issue if you make things out of their skins. I have goats and they are very intelligent (and mischievous) animals but I recognise that in a milking herd the males will need to be culled and so, provided it is done humanely, I am willing to eat goat meat. It is very misleading to say that these products are made from the skins of old and infirm animals when in fact they are almost certainly from foals as young as two weeks old that are rounded up every autumn and sent to the pony sales. The few lucky ones are sold for around £10 each to private owners but the rest are shot and at best become zoo fodder (and now ponyskin rucksacks). In 2010 this was the fate of around 700 ponies and in 2011 that number increased by over 100% to 1500. The 2012 sales are going on now so numbers are not yet known for this year. Clearly, far too many foals are being born but the issues are complicated. Some very dedicated people have been working hard with the involved parties to find a way of solving the problem of so many unwanted foals and anything that could make their slaughter more profitable will only serve to make a solution harder to reach.
Gill Crane (09/10/12)

In contrast the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association have said that Dartmoor ponies should be part of the meat trade:
Charlotte Faulkner, founder of the DHPA, said in a letter to South West Equine Protection (Swep): “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.”
Ms Faulkner said selling ponies for riding and driving would continue.
“The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association believes the meat trade should be (used) too,” she said. “Strangely, having a meat trade should improve a pony’s chances of finding a new home at sale.”
Becky Treeby, of Swep, said: “Dartmoor hill ponies were there for a reason, for ecology purposes to keep grass on the moors down, and they have been there for thousands of years. People have never eaten them before. It is promoting over-breeding for profit.”
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-29353194 (24/09/14)