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British Horse Society launching survey with support from Defra into ragwort

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: August 05, 2014

Ragwort can be fatal to horses.

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THE British Horse Society has launched a major survey supported by Defra to assess levels of awareness and concern about ragwort – a plant that can cause serious and sometimes fatal harm to horses.

Every year, The British Horse Society is inundated with concerns from members about the weed, and many of those responsible for horses' care invest large amounts of resource, both through labour and expense, in trying to control it.

The British Horse Society has taken these concerns on board, and is working with Defra to launch a major new research project to assess current levels of awareness and concern about ragwort and how it affects horses in England. The survey will gather data across England on the perceptions and reality of the impact of ragwort.

It will inform future measures to ensure the appropriate use of the Weeds Act 1959, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and other relevant legislation.

The survey is running until Friday, August 15, and can be accessed through the society's website at www.bhs.org.uk/ragwort.

The British Horse Society is encouraging people to take the time to complete this survey, and share it with their friends and family. The more information that is collected, the more effective the campaign against ragwort can be.

The British Horse Society works to provide education on all equestrian matters, including useful guidance and advice on best practice for grazing management to promote horses' wellbeing.

Lee Hackett, the society's Director of Equine Policy, said: "We know that ragwort is an issue that greatly concerns our members and indeed all responsible horse owners, so we are delighted to be working with Defra on this research project.

"We know that ragwort kills horses every year and there is absolutely no excuse for this – such deaths are completely avoidable.

"We need everyone who cares about horses to complete our survey so that we can better understand the extent of the problem.

"The results will also help inform legislation and other measures surrounding ragwort.

"This is a very important project and one which could make a real difference, so we are extremely grateful to Defra for their support of this work.

"However, it can only work if we can gather enough data so I urge everyone involved in horses to take a few minutes to complete the survey and to encourage others to do the same."

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  • BillEllson  |  August 06 2014, 4:07PM

    Ragwort poisoning of horses is rare and confirmed diagnoses are few and far between. Horses will not eat the extremely bitter living plant unless starved, but it is a real problem if it gets into hay as it loses it bitterness when dry. Failing to provide appropriate food and water for a horse is a criminal offence (under the 2006 Act) and selling hay with levels of ragwort harmful to horses is an offence under Regulation 9(4) The Animal Feed (England) Regulations 2010. BHS may well be "inundated with concerns", but that will be because of the amount of scaremongering they have indulged in over the years. The BHS 'survey' is little more than a glorified petition packed with loaded questions designed to worry horse owners. The methodology is very poor with inadequate safeguards against double counting and no means of verifying data. Ragwort is a native plant and at least 30 species of insect are entirely dependent on it. Many others also feed on it or live on the stem or flowers