A story in a small, local online paper seems to have caught the attention of the UK tabloid press.
“Warning: sheep high on cannabis could cause havoc in Swansea Valley village”, published on May 24th in the South Wales Evening Post was picked up on May 25th by some of the popular UK press. If my twitter stream is anything to go by, this has also proven to be a hit on social media.
It has a fun headline that catches your attention, but the story is so full of inaccuracies I’m going to work through them to demonstrate just how dumb these articles are and how they became an opportunity for the popular tabloids to subtly (or not so subtly, in this case) pump out their anti-cannabis propaganda.
I’ll work my way through the original article, then see if there are any other pickings from the big hitters. Oh, how I wish the famous Welsh stoner Howard Marks was still alive to read these.
“The remains of a cannabis factory fly-tipped on a Swansea Valley road were today hastily removed after warnings plants may have been eaten by out-of-control sheep.”
First of all, the image shows the remains of about 25-30 plants. This was not the dumping of a cannabis factory. It was discarded by a relatively small time grow. This kind of behaviour should in no way be encouraged and is littering. This kind of dump becomes the norm as the illegality of the grow operation in the first place makes it tricky to discard of such waste.
If someone does discard of root balls like this, they would not include throwing away the cannabis that they had grown in the process. At most, there would be a few inches of stalk protruding out of the root ball and the roots. None of which would be psychoactive in any way. Even if they had discarded the plant with flowering tops, it would still not be psychoactive until properly processed. They are not going to dry and cure lying by the side of a Welsh country lane; they are far more likely to rot away.
It seems that the sheep were already out of control before they may have eaten the plants. So there is another issue, as a farmer had not properly secured her sheep.
So far we have an illegal grow and littering. Then a case of escaped livestock. There is no proof that plants were discarded and no proof that the marauding sheep had consumed said plants.
“County councillor Ioan Richard raised the alarm saying the animals were already causing a nuisance in Craig Cefn Parc.”
I’m sure they are, but this has nothing to do with cannabis.
“The Mawr ward councillor, who has been waging a crusade against frequent fly-tipping in the countryside in his area, said that the cannabis factory remains had been spotted by cross roads above Salem Chapel near Rhydypandy.”
Good for him. May I suggest a place where people can dispose of trash from their grows. Like a root ball amnesty perhaps? Problem solved.
He said, “There is already a flock of sheep roaming the village causing a nuisance. They are getting in people’s gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom.”
Be that as it may, it has absolutely nothing to do with cannabis. I suggest that people keep their garden gates and doors closed to stop sheep from entering their bedrooms.
Next, we have the killer line that seemed to have sparked so many headlines. Congratulations Mr. Richard, you have made yourself look a complete plonker globally for uttering these words.
“I dread to think what will happen if they eat what could well be cannabis plants – we could have an outbreak of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village.”
Err…. We’ve already established that there are no plants for the sheep to eat, and even if there were, they wouldn’t have an effect. And, even if they did have any effect, it’s doubtful they would be psychotic. Sleepy maybe, but not psychotic.
“Mr. Richard said that there had already been instance of sheep being killed in the village after straying into the road.”
Poor sheep. The farmer should have fenced them in. The article then wraps up with how Swansea council cleaned up the mess after reporting to the police.
So now we are more or less clear on what more than likely happened, or as I discussed above, did not happen. Here’s the fall out at time of this writing.
Keiligh Baker reported the following for the Mail Online:
- Sheep went on a ‘psychotic rampage’ after accidentally eating cannabis
- The Class B drugs were dumped in a quiet Welsh village and eaten by flock
- Locals say the sheep have been ‘roaming the village’ causing havoc
- Councillor: ‘One even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom’
- Stoned sheep have allegedly gone on a ‘psychotic rampage’ and are causing havoc after eating cannabis plants which were dumped in a quiet village.
- The remains of an illegal cannabis factory were fly-tipped in the quiet village of Rhydypandy in the Swansea valley in South Wales, and worried locals fear the sheep have been munching the herbs after they exhibited some very odd behaviour.
If you thought the original was bad, what do you make of all that!? There is still no evidence whatsoever that the sheep consumed any cannabis. Or that there was any cannabis to be consumed in the first place.
Sam Webb, reporting for The Mirror, another popular UK tabloid, filed in the following:
“The remains of an illegal cannabis factory were fly-tipped on a Welsh village road – and worried locals fear the sheep have been chowing down on the psychotropic herbs”
The sheep did not eat any cannabis I thought we’d established that. But it gets better.
“County councillor Ioan Richard said sheep have been “roaming the village” and causing havoc by breaking into homes and getting killed by cars as they stumble about in what appears to be a druggy haze.”
This is absolutely fabricated and has no bearing on what is presented in the original piece, nor can any scientific facts make this be true. Come on, sheep don’t go “breaking into homes”. They may wander through an open door, but they have no concept of private property. The stumbling about in a “druggy haze” seems to be new. Now, we seem to be reiterating some kind of stereotype that has been debunked so many times. Cannabis will not make you go psychotic and start breaking into people’s property and throwing yourself in the path of oncoming vehicles.
There are many more regurgitations of this story, so I won’t cover them all; but one last look at a piece from the Telegraph, another UK tabloid, with a bee in their bonnet over cannabis.
It more or less reads verbatim to the Mail piece.
In this day and age, it is the short snappy headlines that count. They get tweeted and retweeted, and shared in other social media outlets; thus propagating concepts and ideas into the population through osmosis. It’s unlikely that many will go on to read the article and dissect as I have done. So they are left with the keywords that we continue to see from the prohibitionist stance and these are “stoned”, “psychotic” and “cannabis”.
It’s ridiculous headlines and articles like this that, in my opinion, are more likely to cause harm to people’s mental health than cannabis ever could.