Horse Society Ragwort survey reveals disturbing new figures
on horse fatalities
figures show that about 6,500 horses and ponies died in 2002 after
eating the lethal ragwort plant.
figures, reached after a survey by The British Horse Society (BHS)
and the British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA), came as
a shock. In 2001 similar research put the figure at only 500.
surgeons, all members of BEVA, were this year asked to complete
a questionnaire in a bid to discover the true numbers of animals
suffering from suspected or confirmed ragwort poisoning. Results
have shown that, nationwide, numbers far outstrip the conservative
estimate given by Dr Derek Knottenbelt in 2001. Dr Knottenbelt,
from the University of Liverpool, suggested at the time that some
500 horses had died from ragwort poisoning and he expected that
figure to double in 2002. However, on being asked how many suspected
or confirmed cases the vets had dealt with last year the estimate
rose to over 6,500.
survey produced a response rate of just over 4% with 84 replies
from across Wales, Scotland and England. The number of confirmed
or suspected ragwort cases in 2002 from those replies totalled 283,
giving an average of 3.37 cases. Rolled out across the membership
of BEVA (1,945) this equates to an annual total of 6,553 cases,
far more than previously estimated.
the total number of responses 89% of the vets had dealt with suspected
cases of ragwort poisoning and 75% had seen confirmed cases. The
BHS and BEVA are concerned that there are many more undetected cases
as few owners elect to have post mortems performed when their animals
by county, Surrey was by far the worst affected with 103 cases and
its neighbour Hampshire with 36. Further afield Lincolnshire and
Norfolk had eighteen and sixteen cases respectively whilst Scotland
had a total of seventeen.
Chief Executive, Kay Driver, said, "This survey has shown what
we have always feared, that the equine population in this country
is under constant threat of poisoning from Common Ragwort ingestion.
However hard a horse owner may try to keep pasture clear and to
buy clean forage it is the responsibility of every landowner and
occupier to practice a duty of care in keeping ragwort under control.
BHS' Private Members' Bill, Ragwort Control Bill, and sponsored
by John Greenway MP, currently before Parliament will, if it becomes
law, go a long way towards promoting active control through a statutory
code of practice. Then, and only then, will we see a drop in the
horrendous number of equines suffering death from ragwort poisoning."