Monday, 20 October 2014

Scottish Horse feeding ragwort hysteria

A recent article  on the website of the magazine Scottish Horse has come to my notice.
As usual for the horsey press it is light on understanding of science and logic and heavy on promoting hysteria.

To quote it:-

On another September topic, the BHS in England has just completed a massive important survey with Defra looking into people's attitudes towards the yellow peril (ragwort). We await the findings with interest as increasingly we come across people who question its toxicity or don't see ragwort control as a priority.
Anyone with the slightest grasp of how you conduct a survey properly will know that it is useless.
It was carried out in a crooked manner in a way that will give crooked results. Like for example starting it with a video which falsely talks up the problem. There is abundant psychological research which shows that this will bias your survey. Then there are leading questions etc etc. It is useless!

In Scotland, currently our government guidance says where ragwort grows in a high risk situation, that means within a certain distance of grazing animals or in conserved forage, we should see enforcement with the perpetrators being asked to control it on their land.

An this is a result of people encouraged by magazines like Scottish Horse who print silly articles like this.
As I blogged yesterday a tendency  to follow authority, the research shows, can be a very clear sign of a mental deficit. So it doesn't generate faith in the writer especially as they have faith in a bent survey.

The problem, as ever, is being able to prove it kills horses - vets don't always do liver biopsies at post mortem. However, we know it is toxic to all animals and humans and needs to be controlled.
This is really bad logic. We do know that when tests are carried out the number of cases of liver damage due to ragwort poisoning is minuscule  So minuscule in fact as to be almost invisible. I blogged about this before.
Saying it is toxic to people is just a scare story, so are runner bean roots and potato leaves. and the plants of Brachyglottis greyi which is growing in a public park a stones throw from where I am sitting even contains the same toxins as its close relative Common Ragwort. Brachyglottis is planted all over the place as are a number of plants containing the ragwort toxins. There is no risk from it.

 I have researched the subject extensively are no cases at all of ragwort poisoning being diagnosed in people in the UK. Yet the stories will continue and more people will be frightened

For your entertainment  I provide a piece of comic relief  on surveying Defra style. We have Sir Humphrey Appleby on the comedy series, Yes, Prime Minister explaining how it is done.

Notice him describing it as a "perfect balanced sample." That is appropriate given the title of yesterday's blog entry.

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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