Horse owners have been warned that Britain's ragwort is "worse than ever" as the wet weather of the past few months have caused it to grow.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has received increased reports of ragwort this year, which is a highly poisonous weed for both horses and cattle, resulting in liver damage and sometimes even fatality.

Under the Weeds Act 1959, amended by the Ragwort Control Act 2003, if ragwort is flowering or seeding within 50 metres of land used for grazing by horses and other animals or for feed or forage production, an order can be made to have it removed.

However, in it is not an offence to have ragwort growing on your land if it is not threatening grazing or fodder, and in 2006 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) delegated its powers under the Act to Natural England.

The British Horse Society (BHS) has received record responses to its annual ragwort survey this year. The responses will be forwarded to the government as proof that more needs to be done to protect animals from the currently thriving weed.

"We believe that ragwort problems are getting worse and the current legislation is ineffective," said Lee Hackett of the BHS.

(Source: MRCVS.org.uk)