Friday, 23 August 2013

Lynne Allbutt should read about ragwort

One of the really frustrating things about this work is the monotonous regularity with which journalists publish nonsense about ragwort without  checking the facts. A particularly bad example appeared in a column in the Western Mail written by Lynne Allbutt recently. Particularly  because she gives a source which debunks a claim she makes in her column. Despite giving it out to her readers she doesn't seem to have read or understood it.

The column seems to make error after error.

 It is toxic and a particular worry for horse  owners as ingestion of either its green or  dried state can cause serious liver damage,  which can have tragic consequences for  animals.

Here we go again! We know from the data that ragwort poisoning is actually very rare. An animal hospital , which is  recognised as a centre for such things recorded no cases at all for five years between 2006 and 2011.  (These are the only years for which data has been provided)  We know very very clearly from biological science that every animal that needs to has evolved strategies to cope with the toxins which are actually present in 3% of all plant. We never hear fuss about the others and horses do not eat the green plant they have evolved not to do so. It is only a problem in starvation abuse cases or where it is eaten in quantity in hay.
 The Ragwort Control  Act 2003 (which amends the Weeds Act  1959), advises it is not an offence to have  these weeds growing on your land and  species such as ragwort have significant  conservation benefits.
 However, they must not be allowed to  spread to agricultural land, particularly  grazing areas or land which is used to  produce conserved forage.
 The problem here is accuracy for that act of parliament says nothing of the sort. You can see the full text of the Ragwort Control Act here

There is also a suggestion that the poisons  (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) can also be  absorbed through the skin if handled  with bare hands, although this has not  proven to be fatal. Knowledge is a powerful  tool, so for more information, visit
Knowledge is indeed a powerful tool. The problem is that that idea that you can be poisoned through the skin appears to be a silly nonsensical myth and worse still that website DEBUNKS IT.

You can read the page here

I understand that the author of the site ragwort expert Esther Hegt is rather perturbed that her website has been associated with the myth.

Esther, by the way ,is a horse owner who initially believed the nonsense about ragwort until she researched it.
She has gathered a stellar cast of international experts to help her write her website.  Her chief adviser on the skin absortption issue actually has a PhD specifically on ragwort.

The skin absorption myth is a particularly nasty and frightening myth. I know of an example of a teenage girl who was intensely and morbidly frightened because she was told after handling ragwort that it might kill her.

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