Friday, 16 February 2018

Gardeners' Question Time on ragwort breaking the BBC's Editorial Guidance.

A recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme Gardeners' Question Time contained a clear falsehood on ragwort.  It is most frustrating when journalists don't check their facts,
It is a clear breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidance which insists on accuracy,

It was falsely stated,
 “according to the Weeds Act of 1959 landowners are required to prevent the  weed from spreading."
It is just not the case. There is no automatic requirement to prevent this plant from spreading. You may be ordered to control it but otherwise there is no requirement to act.

The Act states:
 “Where the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (in this Act referred to as “the Minister”) is satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Act applies growing upon any land he may serve upon the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him, within the time specified in the notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading.”
It is no different from many pieces of legislation where you may be ordered to deal with something if, and only if,  it is considered a problem.

I have made complaints about similar claims to the Advertising Standards Authority. The adverts were stopped. I have also complained to  the Press Complaints Commission about an article in a magazine on the same issue. A correction was forced.
If anyone repeats the  information commercially there would be a criminal breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which prohibit actions which mislead customers.

If this kind of statement cannot appear in advertisements, in the press, or in the course of commerce, then it should not be broadcast on BBC Radio.

I have complained of course and we shall see what action they take.

At the bottom of this of course is the campaign of falsehoods, which I usually blog about. Rigged surveys with false questions etc etc. Articles misleading people . And crazy claims like telling people the cinnabar moth, which eats this plant as its natural food. is being poisoned by it! Or that the plant is running amok in South Africa which actually has no record of it at all growing there.

As I and the conservation organisations who work on this keep saying. People have been misled.

To quote Friends of the Earth
Common ragwort has been subjected to a campaign of “awareness raising” often involving distribution of a whole set of misunderstandings and falsehoods in which:
Ragwort has been blamed for animal deaths which were unproven or obviously not ragwort related;
Bad or irrelevant statistics and poor and biased surveys have been used to spread scare stories; and,
Ragwort has been falsely branded a threat to human health or to the countryside.
Companies repeating these claims in marketing statements
could be breaking consumer legislationand despite action by the Advertising Standards Authority to stop anti-ragwort adverts such ill-informed and false claims have been repeated and adopted by councils, politicians and governments resulting in:
Unnecessary, draconian measures to control or eradicate ragwort, often causing ecological damage to nature reserves and
wild areas like the New Forest;

Miles of roadside verges being subject to unnecessary ‘tidiness’ measures;
Other valuable species of plant being targeted as a result of outdated, archaic and anachronistic legislative measures originally aimed at raising agriculture production during and after World War I;
An entirely unnecessary air of panic leading to proposals for more poor legislation based on misunderstandings of nature, such as proposed measures that started as ragwort control in Scotland
being modified into proposed control measures for all potentially toxic plants. These would have affected everything from bluebells to oak trees.
Is it any wonder that the programme said they had received lots of anti-ragwort messages!

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dangerous illegal ragwort quack treatments

One of the real problems in working on this issue is scientific ignorance.
People often have no clue what they are talking about and this one is a classic.
It is also illegal!

Let's start with an example. Chemicals sound as if they are nasty because they have exotic and funny sounding names. Let's take these two ethanoic acid and
n-phosphonomethyamino-ethanoic acid. These are both chemicals. In fact I bought some of the first one this morning and I am going to eat it later.
This is not as bad as it sounds as ethanoic acid also known by its older name of acetic acid  is the main constituent of vinegar. A chip shop up the road from me has reopened under new management and I am going to try them out.
The other chemical is a weedkiller commonly called Glyphosate or Roundup. It can also be called n-phosphonomethyglycine

This is what the originators of a quack ragwort treatment say.

I do my best at my place not to use weedkillers in the fields. I don’t want Roundup or anything similar near me or my animals, or any of the other little creepies and crawlies that live here, especially the bees, or the many hares, badgers, bats, swallows, raptors, and so on. I like to think of it as a mini nature reserve of sorts, so, no nasty stuff is allowed.

I have been attempting to wage war on ragwort with topical applications of homemade stuff for literally years. Salt on its own (a generous pile poured on the cut off root of the plant) didn’t work. Vinegar didn’t work. I have forgotten the other things I tried… they didn’t work. Creosote worked, but is another horrible chemical that I’d rather not use in my fields! 
My current concoction definitely does the trick. No regrowth either – I took these photos months ago when the earliest rosettes came through. No sign at all of any regrowth.

 The eventual concoction contains domestic washing detergent which contrary to the author's assertions can be an extremely nasty stuff to have around. It contains a load of stuff that you really wouldn't want to throw around in large quantities in the environment. One common ingredient is 
4-(5-Dodecyl) benzenesulfonate which is toxic to fish at concentrations of only around 4 parts per million in water. Imagine this being used near a trout stream.

The Health and Safety Executive are very clear on the law on pesticide use, which includes weedkillers.

Before any pesticide product can be used, sold, supplied or stored it must be authorised for use.
So let's be clear these homemade cocktails of chemicals are ILLEGAL and you can be prosecuted for using them. This is because they have not been tested for safety. This is a European rule that applies throughout the EU.

Now I am not a lawyer but I have looked into this matter but it seems quite possible from the case histories I have looked at that section 8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, which is still law in the UK, applies.

Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of any indictable offence, whether the same be an offence at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.
This would mean that if you pushed this idea on websites or social media you could be prosecuted for doing so. Remember it is very likely to be toxic to wildlife so we  know that so if someone does cause a fish kill or something else or someone is just looking for someone to make an example of, and you have been pushing this as a cure, you could face prosecution.

One other point the author of the website article also states that she has tried Creosote as a weedkiller.
This is ironic because one of the reasons that there is no test for ragwort poisoning is that there are other chemicals which produce the exact same microscopic changes in the liver. Creosote is a mixture of all sorts of nasties and it is likely that it contains compounds which would produce those changes,.

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

Thursday, 27 April 2017

States of Jersey puts out ragwort fake news.

The States of Jersey has put out fake news i.e. false and inaccurate information on its own laws.

They have told people that there is a legal obligation to control ragwort when there is not.

They put out a tweet directing people to a website with the following false information on it.,

Land occupier obligation and the law

Ragwort is specified as an Injurious Weed under the Weeds (Jersey) Law 1961 which requires occupiers to prevent it from spreading.
Land occupier co-operation is required to control this weed and prevent it from maturing, seeding and ultimately spreading throughout the island. This is a legal requirement if you are the occupier of the land upon which the weed is growing.

This is not true.

There is a law on Jersey called the Weeds (Jersey) Law1961
 It does not say what that website says. It is basically a copy of the UK's Weeds Act, It says :-

The Minister, if satisfied that there are injurious weeds to which this Law applies growing upon any land, may cause to be served on the occupier of the land a notice in writing requiring him or her, within the time specified in the notice, to take such action as may be necessary to prevent the injurious weeds from spreading.
To use an analogy. In the UK there are Curfew Orders which allow authorities to tell parents to keep their children off the streets in problem areas. This doesn't mean that there is a universal requirement on parents to keep their children inside all the time. Just like with ragwort orders can be made to deal with specific problems.

When there were additions to the  Weeds Act in the UK. In the form of the oddly named Ragwort Control Act ( It only creates a Code of Practice and doesn't oblige control) It was originally planned to make it force control but this was decided against. Claims from firms making statements like this in the UK have been stopped after action by the Advertising Standards Authority.

There is also the issue that it has been repeated by the BBC!

Further information can be obtained from these documents from  Friends of the Earth. They cover the legal position in the UK, but as I said the Jersey law is just a copy of the UK one.


Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

Friday, 14 April 2017

Animals can eat quite a bit of ragwort with impunity.

Today I am using this blog, as I sometimes, do to explain something that a tweet would not be able to hold and this time I have some new information which I haven't made public before.

I run a website which has all the technical side of things and I use this blog for more informal things or for stories that are current.

The matter has arisen of the usual nonsense being put out by some government body or other that is based on the nutty stories being circulated by equine organisation.

The matter has come up of a small number of poisoning cases recorded on the island of Ireland. Well the organisation recording these seems to get things badly wrong.

First of all the toxins in ragwort are found in 3% of plants  and secondly there is no definitive test . Mouldy feed can cause the same problem and I am told there are cattle cases where ragwort has been claimed as a cause in England where it is pretty obvious that it can't be.

This is covered on my website here There is no test for ragwort poisoning

So you can't say that a case is caused by ragwort unless you have direct evidence that ragwort is to blame and these would be abuse cases where animals are starved into eating it.

One thing is clear the odd plant of ragwort in a field is not going to be a problem.
Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Friends of the Earth's new ragwort information

This is just a brief entry because the stuff you need to read is elsewhere.

Friends of the Earth has produced an excellent blog entry on ragwort .

They also have published a Ragwort Briefing Sheet

Friends of the Earth are very very careful to ensure factual accuracy in their work. Read them!
Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Rubbish on ragwort on twitter - a reply.

Today's blog posting is a reply to a thread on twitter. A piece of ignorant  nonsense from a user using the pseudonym Tartanroots. 

First of all. Look at this really lovely picture. If you do some research on the pictures on-line you find that this lovely little butterfly is one of those species which is particularly fond of ragwort. It is known to be in decline and the hysteria which is leading to persecution of this plant does not help matters.
Read the tweets and I will comment on them below

Aug 26
Ragwort is great for butterflies in late summer; here are three Small Copper butterflies having a feast

  • Only poisonous if it is mixed in with hay, cattle and horses would normally avoid eating it.

  • Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

    Wednesday, 17 August 2016

    Shame on you Ann Nash for ragwort nonsense

    I blog on this issue because the nonsense that circulates about ragwort offends me. I have a well developed sense of reason, science and critical thinking.
    I also have a musical sense and it is like listening to bad off key singing. 
    It is excruciating.

    It comes from one Ann Nash. My researches indicate that she lives in Bromsgrove and it was posted on Facebook and has been widely circulated.
    It is a prime example how this ignorant trash is spread around.
    Shame on you Ann Nash for posting such nonsense
    "To all my friends and family - you need to know this (some if you already do). This plant - lovely wild flower to some - common Ragwort is extremely dangerous, not only is it toxic to animals and will kill horses, it is highly dangerous to humans."
    This is gross misinformation and exaggeration It is toxic to animals if they eat a 
     lot of it. It is only a problem for horses if they are fed bad hay or starved into eating it. The same toxins are in other plants, but we never hear about them.

    It is certainly not highly dangerous to humans.

    "If touched can make you extremely ill, attacking your liver function."
    This is utter claptrap! It is complete and total nonsense! You cannot be poisoned just by touching the plant.

    "Landowners can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Weeds Act 1959, for allowing it to grow, it is that dangerous."
    More claptrap!. There is a pattern of exaggeration in this whole posting and this is a fine example. It is the Weeds Act . It doesn't contain the word dangerous.
    The 1959 Act wasn't debated in parliament and is a restatement of legislation from the early 1920s which was concerned with stimulating agriculture after World War I. The weeds aren't dangerous. Some are even edible! They were considered in those days as problematic in the context of largely unmechanised agriculture. Until the recent plague of hysteria it was hardly used and it doesn't make allowing these plants to grow illegal it merely gives the power to issue control orders.

    "Local councils used to spend more time and effort cutting verges to prevent the spread by seed, but this work is now unaffordable - apparently If you see it do not touch it unless you are wearing gloves - seriously."
    More frightening nonsense. The idea that ragwort is increasing has been around for years but is not supported by the evidence.

    "Complain to your local council. The more complaints made, the more chance there is of getting something done. Please share this with your friends - horsie [sic] or not - and make sure everyone is aware of this dangerous plant."
    Here comes the crux of the problem because of hysterical and ignorant nonsense like this being circulated councils pick up on it and even repeat it.
    One council was recently asked via a Freedom of Information request where evidence was for statements made on their website. They were forced to admit that they didn't have it, because of course it didn't exist and then removed the web material. Even with these efforts  it circulates and circulates.

    I am somewhat reluctant to  name individuals but this seems to me to be an obvious example of gross exaggeration and deliberate use of misleading and frightening language.

    So if you know Ann Nash please tell her to behave properly. check her information properly and stop spreading unfounded scare stories on-line.

    Ragwort Hysteria latest entries