The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (DHPA), an animal conservation group in England, says a group of ponies should be killed for food to preserve the population and to improve animal welfare. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but the group argues that eating Dartmoor ponies will create a new market for horsemeat. Owners who think they can sell their ponies for meat will not only continue to breed the animals, but will also be encouraged to take better care of them. Britain's Princess Anne has previously endorsed this strategy. 

“It has taken years of considering reports and listening to the outcome of meetings to recognize 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,” DHPA founder Charlotte Faulkner said in a letter to South West Equine Protection, The Telegraph reported. She added: "Strangely, having a meat trade should improve a pony's chances of finding a new home at sales."

A Dartmoor pony is a pony that has been born and raised on the commons of Dartmoor, an area of protected land in England that's roughly one-quarter the size of the city of London. They are adorable and fluffy, and smaller than regular horses when fully grown. 

Dartmoor ponies come in a range of colors, but all types are known for their mild temperament and adaptation to the difficult conditions of the Dartmoor region, including frigid winters, strong winds, and a mixture of rough terrains, according to the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association. 

Dartmoor ponies are mainly bred as a "conservation tool." Through grazing, the animals provide critical "maintenance of open, tussocky vegetation on which many rare species depend," the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust writes. The ponies also prevent the spread of a type of fern called bracken by trampling the young leaves. Tourists like them, too. 

But their numbers are falling, swaying many animal welfare groups to get on board with the eating-ponies-to-save-them plan. 

In an emailed statement, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (RSPCA) said: "The killing of horses for meat is an emotive subject as many see them as companion animals rather than a food source, a sentiment the RSPCA has great sympathy with." The group added: "However, the Society’s primary concern for all animals killed for meat is that they are cared for, handled, transported, and slaughtered in a way which safeguards their welfare at all times." 

In this case, consumers won't just have to get over the "yuck" obstacle of eating horsemeat; there's also a cute factor:

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