Advertising Standards Authority crack down on misleading information about Ragwort – a British wildflower

Ragwort – a dreaded weed or a vital part of Britain’s eco-system?

Monsanto, Barrier Biotech Ltd, Ragfork, The British Horse Society and Warwickshire Council have been caught out by the Advertising Standards Authority displaying inaccurate and misleading information on their websites and in leaflets about Common ragwort, a British wildflower important for wildlife conservation.  All the organisations have agreed to remove information that wildly exaggerated how many horses die from Ragwort poisoning or made false claims that landowners have a legal obligation to ‘control’ it.
Advertising codes are laid down by the Advertising Standards Authority to ensure advertising is legal, decent, honest and trustfu

Monsanto, an agricultural company who sell a range of ragwort herbicides made false claims on their website stating that “landowners have a legal obligation to control Common ragwort and prevent its spread”. This is not true.  A land owner may be ordered to control ragwort if there is a significant risk to livestock and they have not followed the Government’s ‘Ragwort Code’ but there is no automatic legal obligation.

Defra state that “The code of conduct does not seek to eradicate ragwort. Ragwort as a native plant, is very important for wildlife in the UK. It supports a wide variety of invertebrates and is a major nectar source for many insec

The British Horse Society and Warwickshire Council have also been caught out promoting a misleading leaflet on ragwort on the Council’s website that stated “It is an offence to allow ragwort to spread from your la

Ragfork a company selling a ragwort removal tool, claimed that “It is responsible for the deaths of up to 6,500 horses and ponies in the UK each year.”  They conceded there was no evidence for this and removed the statement from their website.  In fact numbers are so low that the Government have stopped recording them.  In the UK Government figures for 2005 record just 13 d

Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive said “At least 30 insect species are entirely reliant on Ragwort and about a third of them are scare or rare. Ragwort is also a critically important nectar and pollen source for hundreds of species of butterflies, bees, moths, beetles and flies, helping to maintain what remains of our much declined wildlife.  While it can be harmful to horses in large amounts the main threat is dried ragwort illegally sold in hay and this is where we should focus efforts, not on spraying the countryside with more pesticides, or ripping plants out of roadside ve
Neil Jones, the Buglife and Swansea Friends of the Earth member, who raised the issue with the ASA said “Ragwort is subject to a whole set of campaigning myths which are repeated daily on the internet and in the press, including speculation about the spread of ragwort becoming greater every year. I am glad to see some of the organisations spreading the untruths are being held to a

Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive said “There are still numerous websites and leaflets with misleading Ragwort information. You can help to encourage the promotion of legal, honest and trustworthy information about this wildflower by contacting those misleading sites and drawing their attention to the Government’s ‘Ragwort Code’ or the Ragwort information pages on Buglife’s w


For truth about the effects of Ragwort and its importance for wildl
ife go to:-


The Government’s code of pra
ctice is here:-
For further details and interviews please contact Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive Officer. Tel: 01733 201 210      
Notes for Editors

Photographs – Please contact Buglife for images of Common ragwort and the invert
ebrates it supports. Please credit the named photographer and Buglife when using 
requested images.  

Buglife-The Invertebrate Conservation Trust is the only charity in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, and is actively working to save Britain’s rarest bugs, bees, butterflies, ants, worms, beetles and many more fascinating invertebrates. Further information is available on B
uglife’s website at

From Merav Wheelhouse of Karuna Project, near Shrewsbury, UK.

Telegraph article

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.

6 Responses to “Advertising Standards Authority crack down on misleading information about Ragwort – a British wildflower”

  1. Raggy says:

    Common ragwort is native to Britain but Oxford ragwort was introduced as a garden plant in the 1700’s from Sicily. It was first displayed in Oxford ( hence the name) and subsequently spread throughout the UK via railway lines. It’s much shorter than common ragwort ( 0.5m compared to 1.5m for common ragwort) Each plant has about 12,000 seeds which spread in the wind. Ragwort should be left alone as it’s an important source of food for insects. Like you said it’s only a nuisance if in close proximity to livestock when it must be removed by law. Because horses tend to live longer than cattle and sheep etc which are killed for food the liver damage is seen. It probably doesn’t have time to kill the sheep and cattle as they’re already slaughtered before it can show symptoms.
    There are other ragworts ( marsh etc).

  2. Tapestry says:

    You don’t see ragwort in fields. Farmers keep their pastures in good order. Some original pastures still exist with wildflowers growing from aeons ago, never ploughed or sprayed and still excellent quality grazing. Grass once established is a formidable competitor.

    I was poisoned by agricultural sprays as a child and still have measurable quantities of PCB in my body. My recovery from exercise is damaged by this, especially, with other nervous system effects. Monsanto knew that PCBs were lethal even in the 1930s. They still decided to release them onto the market. The government decided to license them, knowing full well many people would die. What’s going on?

  3. Anonymous says:

    @raggy You need to read the article. There is no automatic requirement to remove this weed by law. That is what the horse society were claiming and what got them into trouble with the ASA

  4. Raggy says:

    There’s a requirement to remove ragwort in England and Wales if livestock could be affected. The 2003 Ragwort Act updates the 1959 Weed Act..

    But the advert was misleading because it said that all ragwort must be removed irrespective of whether it could affect nearby livestock.


    Ragwort is hard to keep under control. I’ve helped clear feilds where my friends horses graze and we try all sorts of methods. Never used chemicals though. Usually salt, lifting and removing and making sure the plant doesn’t manage to seed.

  5. Raggy says:

    Just read the Act. Seems there’s only a requirement to remove ragwort if an order is made under the Act. So it’s not mandatory at all. So I was wrong 🙁
    Scotland doesn’t seem to get mentioned so probably doesn’t affect us up here anyway.

  6. Derek says:

    I had read somwhere that ragwort was only toxic when cut and dried and baled in Hay, when it would later be consumed as Winter fodder. This may or may not be true, but a great many details are available here:

    ‘Scares’, are the meat and potatoes of media, and the tools of power.

    Google for ragwort, and the top listing is Surrey County Council’s website. Total anti-ragwort propaganda. If it’s top of the list – it’s guaranteed suspect.

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