Equestrian Needs Ltd



Common Ragwort (Senecio Jacobaea) is specified as a weed under the Weeds Act 1959, largely due to its toxicity to grazing animals, particularly horses and cattle. If eaten it can have debilitating or fatal consequences with young horses and ponies most at risk.

Despite this widely acknowledged fact, every year a number of animals die as a result of damage to their liver as a result of consuming ragwort. The number of deaths attributed to ragwort poisoning vary wildly from 13 to 500 to 6,500 per year. Most horses affected by ragwort poisoning die after suffering for periods varying from a week to several months.

The Law

Whilst it is prudent to control ragwort, it is a popular misconception that either the Weeds Act 1959 or the Ragwort Control Act 2003 places any legal obligations on landowners to do so.

The 1959 Weeds Act gives the government the power to order a landowner to prevent certain weeds from spreading. The Ragwort Control Act 2003 provides for the government to produce a guide to ragwort control. Neither places a legal obligation on landowners.

The Weeds Act 1959 covers 5 specific weeds including ragwort, however they are not "notifiable" as such and there is no obligation to report their presence to anyone.

The guide aims to significantly reduce the risk posed by ragwort to horses and other grazing animals by promoting good practice, it does not aim to eradicate this native plant as it supports a number of insect species and is also a critically important nectar source for hundreds of species of butterflies, bees, moths, flies and other invertebrates.

Debate rages within different communities regarding the danger posed by ragwort and the obligations of landowners. Click below to read an article in the Telegraph (28/06/2011) following an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority into publicity produced by The British Horse Society.

Toxic weed or an essential part of British ecology?

If you have concerns about Ragwort on public land you can contact

Network Rail - 08457 11 41 41 - (Railway land and embankments)

Highways Agency Information Line 0300 123 5000 (calls charged at local rate)

Last Updated: August 2012