Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Suffolk council gets it wrong

One of the features of Ragwort Hysteria is how often even official bodies get their facts in an atrocious muddle and how often bureaucrats fail to check their facts, even when they are abundantly available on the internet.
Suffolk Council are a case in point they say on their website

"The Weeds Act 1959 lists a number of weeds that can be harmful to human or animal health. These are known as noxious weeds. It places a duty on controllers of land to remove the following scheduled weeds from their land to prevent seeds contaminating their neighbours' land

This is plainly and simply wrong. The Weeds Act talks of injurious weeds not noxious weeds. This means, for those of you who have studied Latin, weeds that are harmful to the interests of agriculture. all the other weeds listed in the Weeds Act are non-poisonous.

Secondly, the Weeds Act does not place any automatic duty on controllers of land to remove the weeds.

Thirdly, the seeds do not normally disperse for more than a few metres so they mislead people into thinking that seed spread is the primary reason for ragwort colonising a site. Botanical studies show that it is the conditions on the site that favour ragwort growth that are important.
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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

You are wrong Salvador

 A blog search shows Salvador's blog
making the old claim that 6000 horses a year die from ragwort poisoning. His blog is rather prolific but the errors in the English do make you wonder.As do the adverts for sites selling viagra and such like. It sounds like a rather spammy old blog created quickly for advertising revenue. It might even use automated software for its creation.

It is however an example of how the stories get repeated and this old chestnut is well known.

The high figure comes from a survey that was about SUSPECTED ragwort poisonings. We know that ragwort poisoning is indistinguishable from any other kind of liver damage without direct examination of the liver, and even then that the same alkaloids occur in 3% of all flowering plants worldwide. So searching for suspected cases is worthless.

But this survey of vets is worse than that. There was a tiny number of replies and from a large number surveyed. The number was then atrociously multiplied as if all correspondents replied. This is junk science if ever there was such a thing.

We know from a great deal of international evidence that despite all the hysteria ragwort poisoning is rare.
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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Fen Ragwort a protected plant is not immune

The Daily Mail is not noted as the most radical or conservation minded of newspapers. Often besmirched with nicknames like "Hate Mail" or "Daily Mosely" and reminders of the 1930's proprietor who wrote to a certain politician calling him "Adolf the Great"

But let's be fair, they published a nice article on that rare and endangered plant Fen Ragwort which starts:-

"A ditch which is filled with discarded drink cans, plastic bags and bottles is one of the ten most important wildlife sites in Britain, according to Natural England.

But the spot on a busy road on the outskirts of Ely, Cambridgeshire, with a roadside burger van parked next to it, is the only place in the country where self-seeded Fen Ragwort grows.

The plant was believed to have become extinct in the Victorian era so wildlife experts were stunned when it was discovered again in 1972."

Read more:
Rubbish-filled ditch beside roadside burger van named as one of UK's 10 most important wildlife sites

However, almost predictably there is a hysterical commenter on the website saying
"As ragwort is responsible for the painful death of hundreds of horses every year, I feel like digging it up and burning it!"

Of course those who have studied it don't believe this nonsense about hundreds of horses dying every year, but this is another example of how the hysteria around ragwort affects conservation. This time it is endangering a legally protected plant.
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Ragwort in ' Orse and 'Ound again

Ragwort it seems grows better when ever the weather does anything. Well at least that is what happens if you read the press. Good old "'Orse and 'Ound" have been at it again with an article on their website. As usual I don't give links to hysterical articles so you'll have to google for it but they say "Cold weather in November and December, followed by a mild January have caused the deadly weed ragwort to start to grow early.". Well who knows? This might be the case. There isn't anything in the scientific literature that I have seen to support it though.
It is just that whenever the weather does something different, if it is a bit hotter or colder or rains more or less it makes, if you listen to the press, ragwort grow more rampant and spread even more. The research of course suggests that if anything ragwort is DECREASING.
Back in 2008 the Western Daily press printed this:-

"A deadly plant is on the march because of the hot, wet weather - and seeds that have been dormant for 15 years are now growing. The native ragwort plant can kill grazing animals and pets and is even a danger to humans. The distinctive yellow plants - Senecio jacobaea - grow waist high and are most dangerous when they are dead or dying. Britain's Open Spaces Society has issued a warning about the plant, also known as benweed or curley doddies."

Then it was the weather but they didn't forget to put some hysterical nonsense about it killing pets. Dogs and cats DON'T EAT IT. Then of course miraculously seeds buried for 15 years have motored their way magically to the surface and germinated.

Anyway back then good old Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust fought back and got a more balanced article in the Daily Telegraph.
Conservation warning over 'ragwort hysteria'
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