Another misleading story has appeared in Horse and Hound magazine, which unfortunately has a long history of printing misleading stories on ragwort. Like this one last year and this one later on. I am currently compiling a list and timeline of misinformation for my main website and they feature prominently
This time it appears to be a seriously misleading story. They are apparently claiming falsely that a legal case forces people to remove ragwort from their land. They say, with the emphasis on their website preserved, :-.
"A prosecution has highlighted the importance of clearing ragwort from your land.But we are fortunate to be able to look at a court transcript relating to the case which says:-
Not only can ragwort be fatal to horses, owners may face fines and even imprisonment if it is allowed to grow on grazing areas.
In a recent case, a traveller was convicted at Guildford Crown Court for offences under the Animal Welfare Act, after 2 ponies died from ragwort poisoning."
"The case has come before the court in rather unusual circumstances. At the end of July 2010, RSPCA inspectors found three ponies owned by the interested party, Mr William Brazil, a traveler and a horse dealer, to have been subject to ill treatment. They were in a large field in Witley near Godalming in Surrey with very little forage and a large area of cut ragwort."
So according to the court transcript it appears that it has nothing to do with live ragwort not being cleared. It is abuse by starvation and dead ragwort.
We have to wonder if even the hysteria about ragwort is part of the problem. There is a lot of confusion around. Why was the ragwort cut? Was it because of the false story that it is illegal to grow it?
You see we know from pretty basic biology that there are very good reasons why horses don't eat fresh ragwort. There are also good reasons why small doses probably have no effect and this probably explains why, for example, Liverpool University tell me they didn't record a single case of ragwort poisoning over a five year period.
I am currently working on a set of proper web pages about this. It has taken a lot of research. There are some real hoots coming. I have been getting people laughing a lot recently when I tell them things like the claims that our ragwort is a menace in South Africa and that it may have caused cancer in people there. The South African National Botanic Gardens tell me they have no record of the plant growing there!! It really scares people though, like a lot of the falsehoods.
The evidence shows that ragwort is not the problem portrayed contrary to the scary stories put about, often in magazines like Horse and Hound, which led to the adverts being stopped after action by the Advertising Standards Authority. They are after all an independent body who just look at the evidence.