Ragwort The sense and the nonsense.

There have been many recent stories in the press about the plant ragwort. It is accused of being a menace both to humans and animals.

Regularly a series of wild hysterical exaggerations are to be seen on forums and in the social media on the internet. The question of humans is dealt with in another article, Ragwort and humans why there is no risk. Here on this page the problems and the exaggerations are explained with links to the more significant pages on the site, which give more details on each of the specific areas of our work on this subject in more depth.

It should be especially  noted at this point that we have been vindicated in our stance on this matter by a set of complaints we made to the Advertising Standards Authority.

It is, without question a poisonous plant, but poisoning is rare. An extensive investigation of the scientific data from both Europe and other countries shows this.  Published statistics show it affecting only a dozen or so horses a year and a similar number of cattle and the literature indicates that a lot of cases occur because of mistreatment.

For a longer and more detailed explanation of these false higher claims see Ragwort horse deaths cattle deaths and bad science.

It is in fact a very significant and important plant ecologically. See. Ragwort an important plant.

It is not just the question of the cinnabar moth, but of a much greater number of invertebrates.

Contrary to what is often claimed , Ragwort isn't a notifiable weed. There is not, and never has been, a requirement in any UK law to notify anyone of  its presence on land. This is a common myth but it is completety untrue. This native plant is often false described as “invasive” a term properly applied to foreign plants that pose an ecological problem. We recently had to complain to Neath Port Talbot Council that a document they produced listed this ecologically important plant as being a foreign invasive that needed control like Japanese Knotweed.

Another frequently occuring hoax is that the law requires people to control it where ever it occurs. This is not true either. Under the Weeds Act landowners may be ordered to control it in extreme circumstances but there is no requirement either for the government to enforce it or for landowners to control it. See Ragwort the law explained . We have even seen the Welsh Assembly Government putting out falsehoods regarding this and written a letter to the press correcting it.

The private members bill that became the Ragwort Control Act did actually attempt to do this but parliament realised the value of the plant and the silliness of ordering people to control it. The act only provides for the production of guidance in the form of a code for control.

We often see claims that it needs to be controlled on verges and other public land because there is a danger of it spreading. Ragwort seed spread has been well studied and this is clearly not the case.

It isn't increasing either. As we have shown with our work with the Advertising Standards Authority, there has been a lot of campaigning by people who can financially benefit from the perception that the plant is dangerous but the facts show that it is not increasing.

A great deal of minformation appears regularly in the press as in the case of Horse and Hound where we complained to the Press Complaints Commission.

One of the serious problems on this issue is that the British Horse Society with their officers has been continuously and persistantly distributing dubious and misleading information on the issue and a prime example of this was the false and ludivrious claim that our Britsh ragwort was a serious problem in South Africa when a check on the information produced the response from the experts that there was actually no record in existence that showed that the plant had ever been recorded there! They have also produced a ragwort toolkit which is peppered with inaccuracies.

There is a fundamental question that has to be raised here regarding the accuracy of the legal statements being made in the toolkit as to whether a reasonable person should regard them in anyway at all as being fundamentally honest and truthful. In that regard the statements regarding ragwort cannot be regarded as such. They make claims that an offence is committed in allowing ragwort to spread when in actual reality the law on question does not create an automatic legal responsibility to instigate control measures against the plant. Therefore there is only one rational conclusion that can be drawn from this information, that is to say that it misleads or tends to mislead any person who would happen to read it.

This interesting video features the Chief Executive of Buglife explaining about the hysteria,


Swansea Friends of the Earth