Thursday, 15 August 2013

BBC encourages ragwort law breaking

Last night the Mark Forrest Show went out on local BBC radio stations. It covered an item about  ragwort in The New Forest which quite atrociously encouraged people to break the law.

One of the presenters made the following false statement:-

"The British Horse Society and other organisations say the species can be toxic to horses if eaten  and that's why quite legally they can remove it if is growing within 50 metres of grazing land."
 This is incorrect!. All wildflowers are protected by law in the UK. You can't legally remove them without
the landowners permission. Ragwort is covered under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. This is what the Act says :-
"(1) Subject to the provisions of this part if any person
(a) intentionally picks, uproots or destroys any wild plant include in schedule 8 ;or
(b)Not being an authorised person intentionally, uproots any wild plant not included in that schedule. "

This means that it is illegal to uproot ragwort or any other wildflower unless you are the owner
or occupier of the land where it is growing or have their authorisation or if you are a certain kind of public official. See this briefing for full details.

As regular readers will know it is entirely possible that the British Horse Society did provide bad information because they seem to have a long history of providing such bad information. They took a  beating from the Advertising Standards Authority when one of their leaflets ( unsurprisingly saying incorrect things about the law) was stopped and several companies repeating their falsehoods also had their advertising stopped.

The  broadcast had someone on from the New Forest Equine Society,  talking about balance but seeming to be very ignorant of ecology. We had the hoary old chestnut about there being plenty of ragwort in other places not just where horses happened to be. This appears to show really really bad knowledge. Ragwort is an important nectar source. It is often important on grazed land precisely because it isn't grazed by the animals that have evolved to avoid eating it.  It is really basic and elementary ecology that different habitats will have different animals found on them. Therefore ragwort is going to be significant wherever it grows.

We also know that ragwort is decreasing in the UK and wildflowers and wildlife are generally decreasing too.  We will also have people pulling up anything with yellow flowers or vaguely ragged leaves. This targeting of ragwort on the basis of stuff that we can show categorically to have been made up, will cause a great deal of environmental harm.

Then just after Matt Shardlow told everyone, quite correctly, that ragwort was  native. They broadcast a statement from an ignoramus who had contacted the show who said that ragwort wasn't native and it came from South America!  The poor standard of journalism that allows that beggars belief.

Why oh why can't journalists get their facts straight even when they have just been told them!

This video covers the broadcast and provides a commentary.

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