Wednesday, 29 June 2011

British Horse Society rapped by Advertising Standards Authority

This is the really big story about ragwort. A major source of the hysteria has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The British Horse Society had a leaflet prepared with a local council and they were making false statements that the law forced all landowners to prevent ragwort from spreading. The ASA contacted the council and told them to stop using the leaflet.
Also a set of other companies changed their adverts after pressure from the ASA.

It has been in the national press today.
The Daily Mirror Horse group told to tone down ragwort campaign And the Daily Telegraph. Toxic weed or an essential part of British ecology?

You can read chapter and verse from Swansea Friends of the Earth who made the complaints. There is also a press release from Buglife.

What is more a lot of companies had to take down statements from websites that were suspect and some of them came originally from publicity by the British Horse Society.

These are from the press over the years.
"The British Horse Society believes up to 6,500 horses die every year from ragwort poisoning." Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"The British Horse Society recently said it believes that up to 6,500 horses die every year from Ragwort poisoning."
- Mid Devon Star Monday, August 13, 2007

"The British Horse Society and the British Equestrian Veterinary Association say that more than 6,500 horses a year die from eating the weed." Daily Mail Friday July 25, 2003

The story is widespread and believed. That figure isn't credible. It is based on extreme extrapolation. You can find an analysis here. This morning on Radio 4 a BHS spokesman was saying that there were a "couple of hundred" but admitting that there were no figures.
All the data I have seen suggest much lower figures. Government figures are hard to come by but data from 2005 say just thirteen were identified by the necessary laboratory analysis.

The real story is this, the ASA take downs featured companies who repeated these dodgy figures and who, when challenged by the ASA for proof , chose to remove the statements from the adverts rather than try to provide any. The proof of course is non-existent.

Is it acceptable for a Registered Charity like the BHS, notwithstanding their use of false statements on the law on a leaflet, to use these figures to promote its ideas, campaigns, profile and ultimately at least some fundraising from that profile? Is it acceptable when those figures cannot be justified by companies using them when challenged by the advertising regulator?

And while you are thinking about it. Here are some clips of Buglife's Chief Executive on the radio this morning talking about the hysteria.

If you are a fan you can click on this link to join them.
Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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