Friday, 17 June 2011

Loads of errors on common article.

One of the motivations for this blog is to expose the large amount of rubbish about ragwort circulating on the internet. This gets repeated and repeated with nobody checking it. People see it so often that they assume it must be true. More of it gets posted on the internet and so on in a vicious circle.

One particularly bad page has just come into the searches over the last few days. I count no more than it only a short article of no more than about 350 words yet it contains SIX major falsehoods. A further piece of searching revealed that it actually comes from an articles site and is duplicated in a number of places which makes it even worse. I am going to the article source and commenting after I make this posting.

Falsehood one.

probably kills thousands of horses every year.

There is no proper evidence that this is true at all. It came onto the internet because someone did a particularly bad survey where they asked a lot of vets, got a tiny number of answers which were about suspected cases . ( You need a lab to tell you, usually at a post mortem.) They then multiplied this unreliable number as if everyone had replied! This is extremely bad statistical work. The published lab figures show a handful of deaths and are consistent with the data internationally.

Falsehood two.

An average plant produces more than 150,000 seeds.

This figure of 150,000 seeds started off as a maximum. It isn't impossible but it is very very high. It is like saying men can grow to seven feet. They can but don't very often, but in this article it has been set as a sort of minimum! The average is then said to be more than this! The overwhelming majority of ragwort plants do not produce anywhere like this number of seeds.

Falsehood three.

Every part of the plant is poisonous to your horse and even the smallest amount ingested will be converted into toxins

This is not true. Small doses will have no effect and may, they may be destroyed, they may not be absorbed and they may cause no damage or that damage will be repaired. I give this a proper treatment in the page about the nonsense about animals inhaling seeds.

Falsehood four
carried on from that sentence

which then multiply and spread

This is nonsense. Toxins are not alive they cannot multiply and spread like that. This is an error of the standard of very simple basic schoolboy or schoolgirl biology.

Falsehood five.

It is even advisable to wear a mask to prevent inhaling the tiny seeds.

Ragwort seeds are not tiny. They are a millimetre or two long at least. They are certainly not tiny enough to be inhaled by anyone accidentally in any quantity. If you inhaled one you would cough and cough until it came up.

Falsehood six

It is now illegal for landowners to allow ragwort to spread by failing to control it.

Here we go again. Hardly a day goes by without yet another example of this old chestnut appearing. There is no law in the UK that says this is the case. There is a posting on ragwort law which explains it all in more detail.

The article also talks about ragwort being poisonous to people. Which it is if you are daft enough to eat it and the author may be thinking of the skin absorption hysteria when she talks about the need to wear gloves, but I'll give here the benefit of the doubt. Ragwort can like many daisy type plants cause an allergic reaction from other chemicals that are in it. These are not the liver damaging ones.

As a whole the article epitomises the problem with ragwort hysteria. You get people all over the place believing the nonsense and spreading it further.
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