Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Friends of the Earth's new ragwort information

This is just a brief entry because the stuff you need to read is elsewhere.

Friends of the Earth has produced an excellent blog entry on ragwort .

They also have published a Ragwort Briefing Sheet

Friends of the Earth are very very careful to ensure factual accuracy in their work. Read them!
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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Rubbish on ragwort on twitter - a reply.

Today's blog posting is a reply to a thread on twitter. A piece of ignorant  nonsense from a user using the pseudonym Tartanroots. 

First of all. Look at this really lovely picture. If you do some research on the pictures on-line you find that this lovely little butterfly is one of those species which is particularly fond of ragwort. It is known to be in decline and the hysteria which is leading to persecution of this plant does not help matters.
Read the tweets and I will comment on them below

Aug 26
Ragwort is great for butterflies in late summer; here are three Small Copper butterflies having a feast

  • Only poisonous if it is mixed in with hay, cattle and horses would normally avoid eating it.

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    Wednesday, 17 August 2016

    Shame on you Ann Nash for ragwort nonsense

    I blog on this issue because the nonsense that circulates about ragwort offends me. I have a well developed sense of reason, science and critical thinking.
    I also have a musical sense and it is like listening to bad off key singing. 
    It is excruciating.

    It comes from one Ann Nash. My researches indicate that she lives in Bromsgrove and it was posted on Facebook and has been widely circulated.
    It is a prime example how this ignorant trash is spread around.
    Shame on you Ann Nash for posting such nonsense
    "To all my friends and family - you need to know this (some if you already do). This plant - lovely wild flower to some - common Ragwort is extremely dangerous, not only is it toxic to animals and will kill horses, it is highly dangerous to humans."
    This is gross misinformation and exaggeration It is toxic to animals if they eat a 
     lot of it. It is only a problem for horses if they are fed bad hay or starved into eating it. The same toxins are in other plants, but we never hear about them.

    It is certainly not highly dangerous to humans.

    "If touched can make you extremely ill, attacking your liver function."
    This is utter claptrap! It is complete and total nonsense! You cannot be poisoned just by touching the plant.

    "Landowners can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Weeds Act 1959, for allowing it to grow, it is that dangerous."
    More claptrap!. There is a pattern of exaggeration in this whole posting and this is a fine example. It is the Weeds Act . It doesn't contain the word dangerous.
    The 1959 Act wasn't debated in parliament and is a restatement of legislation from the early 1920s which was concerned with stimulating agriculture after World War I. The weeds aren't dangerous. Some are even edible! They were considered in those days as problematic in the context of largely unmechanised agriculture. Until the recent plague of hysteria it was hardly used and it doesn't make allowing these plants to grow illegal it merely gives the power to issue control orders.

    "Local councils used to spend more time and effort cutting verges to prevent the spread by seed, but this work is now unaffordable - apparently If you see it do not touch it unless you are wearing gloves - seriously."
    More frightening nonsense. The idea that ragwort is increasing has been around for years but is not supported by the evidence.

    "Complain to your local council. The more complaints made, the more chance there is of getting something done. Please share this with your friends - horsie [sic] or not - and make sure everyone is aware of this dangerous plant."
    Here comes the crux of the problem because of hysterical and ignorant nonsense like this being circulated councils pick up on it and even repeat it.
    One council was recently asked via a Freedom of Information request where evidence was for statements made on their website. They were forced to admit that they didn't have it, because of course it didn't exist and then removed the web material. Even with these efforts  it circulates and circulates.

    I am somewhat reluctant to  name individuals but this seems to me to be an obvious example of gross exaggeration and deliberate use of misleading and frightening language.

    So if you know Ann Nash please tell her to behave properly. check her information properly and stop spreading unfounded scare stories on-line.

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    Sunday, 8 May 2016

    Defra suggests ragwort isn't native

    Today's blog entry is quite a short one. As people will know I have been very critical of Defra's approach to this whole issue. I blogged sometime ago about their utter cluelessness in establishing the risk to horses. In essence their statistics aren't just invalid they are innumerate! They just don't have any idea  how to do proper statistical evaluations.

    Today however, I am blogging to say that they have excelled themselves in being incompetent. They are suggesting really strongly that our common ragwort an ecologically important native plant is a dangerous foreigner.

    The Code of Practice has been withdrawn but instead of getting rid of it they have stamped every page with this text.

    "This information is out of date and has been withdrawn. Updated guidance on invasive non-native plants is available on  GOV.UK"

    Just to confirm it here is an example from an almost blank page where it can be
    seen most clearly.

      I think that any unsophisticated reader who reads this would believe from what is being said that ragwort is not a native plant. After all if it is  covered in guidance on invasive non-native species surely it is natural to think it must be one of those species? Of course it isn't!

    As I have said before Defra sounds just like the Welsh word Deffra and that is a command "Wake up!" I think they should quickly!
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    Thursday, 28 April 2016

    Ragwort scandal shameful and fairy tales

    Today's blog entry was originally inspired by a posting on twitter from NT Ranger Toby

    Apr 22
    lucky you! I'm split over ragwort... It gets persecuted just for grazing stock. So many species depend on it.

    Today my honest opinions are basically a reply to his tweet, but they apply to everyone who is interested in the subject.

    Other things have also recently emerged on this issue. As regular readers will know I have been studying the unjustified persecution of  ragwort for over a decade now and I work with a number of the large conservation bodies on this matter. My blog and website are personal, but I do sign letters to the press on behalf of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland. ( Scotland has an independent organisation.)
     I don't blog as often as I used to because I can now work in other ways.

    As I said, I run  a website as well as this blog and the website contains the technical data and scientific references. To put it briefly ragwort is poisonous but the story that it is a serious problem is  invented. I used to say exaggerated. For sometime  now I have had the evidence to say invented.

    One recent piece of evidence that came to light was when someone kindly provided me with a British Horse Society newsletter article from 2001 when they had been campaigning to vilify ragwort for a few years. A section by section critique of this article will eventually go on-line. It takes some time because it contains so much nonsense that digging out the scientific references from the thousands of records in my archive and compiling an accurate debunk takes a while.

    I passed the article on to a fellow expert, a colleague who also studies the plant and the hysteria. The response I got was that it  was shameful, a scandal and that it was full of fairy tales.

    The entire article is based on a false premise.  It is called, "The Increase in the Spread of Ragwort", which is a really bad title since a government survey subsequently showed that actually ragwort was markedly declining!

    After going through a lot of nonsensical arguments of why this non-existent phenomenon was occurring, showing an ignorance of what SSSIs  are  and irrationally blaming them as a possible source of the non-problem, there was an account of how they started campaigning. It contains this very revealing statement.

    "To begin with it was difficult to get the media interested. The first
    question was always, "How many horses die of ragwort poisoning every year?". The answer of course was we don't know. We couldn't even come up with an owner whose horse had died of ragwort poisoning. The necessary 'case study' that is so vital for any media story." 
     It seems abundantly clear that they started campaigning just on the basis of the misconception that ragwort was increasing and before they had even identified  if there was a serious problem.

    Oh yes, they did come up with some figures. These were repeated by companies in adverts for controls and then stopped after action by the Advertising Standards Authority because they were baseless, and wrong!  They claim to have found  case studies  of well cared for horses that were definitely poisoned. Those who know the veterinary literature properly will know  this is impossible since there isn't  a reliable test which tells ragwort poisoning from poisoning caused by common moulds in badly kept foodstuffs.

    My website gives an explanation with referenced quotes from the textbooks here

    The British Horse  Society has been feeding its members with a constant stream of inaccurate and irrational statements and even falsehoods.

    Here are some examples.

    One of its leading lights being quoted saying that the Cinnabar Moth is being poisoned by its natural foodplant. Yes, I laughed too, but it is in a textbook!

    The same person claimed that our native ragwort is a serious problem in South Africa and may even have given people cancer there. I checked and the people who keep the records say there is no record of the plant ever being recorded there!

    This is another piece of misinformation on my website. It is an example of one of its officers peddling blatant nonsense in a newspaper.

    It is mostly like this and nearly everything that is put out makes no sense when compared to the evidence.

    Now DEFRA's  Code of Practice has recently been withdrawn but many people will still be influenced by it and it is  worth considering is validity. It is very bad.
    Their  advice is based on a whole series of falsehoods. At its core is an estimation of risk.

    A figure of 500 horse deaths from ragwort poisoning in 2000. This figure is based on the number of confirmed horse deaths from ragwort poisoning seen by the Philip Leverhulme Large Animal Hospital Teaching Hospital at Liverpool University as a percentage of all the horse cases treated during the year, and grossed up to be representative of the total horse population.

    They talk about, "confirmed horse deaths", but hang on,  didn't I just say that the textbooks say it cannot be confirmed? Yes , that is right!. DEFRA are wrong!

    But what about those 500 horse deaths? Well. I cover it here:-

    You cannot extrapolate like this. It breaks the rules governing  the mathematics of statistics and the hospital didn't actually get any cases, which were only suspected ones remember,  over a five year period. The whole basis of the Code of Practice is clearly false.

    The basic message is horses co-evolved with ragwort. They avoid it unless starved cruelly into eating it. The whole fuss is perpetuated by campaigners who haven't a clue what they are talking about. Control measures should be limited to where there is a real risk. It shouldn't usually be required in conservation areas.

    Since the awareness raising done by the BHS is based on falsehoods. We need to remove it from the equation, ignore the government advice based on their lobbying  and go back to how we used to behave. Any control measures should be based on evidence not nonsense. Anything else surely would be irrational?

    Oh yes and the BHS has put out a so called Ragwort Toolkit that misleads people on the facts including very clear false statements about the law. You can find some info here :- Ragwort Toolkit

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