Calls for ban on reckless release of sky lanterns

The government should act now and make the use of sky lanterns illegal – that was the message given yesterday to UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow by a coalition of leading farming, environment, animal and fire organisations.
NFUS president, Martin Kennedy.NFUS president, Martin Kennedy.
NFUS president, Martin Kennedy.

Criticising the Government’s lack of regulation of these aerial bonfires as being both out of date and out step with other nations, the group said that in many other countries the release of sky lanterns was considered an environmental crime due to the harm they cause animals, habitats and the countryside.

Yet by enacting Section 140 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 the group claimed that the Secretary of State could prohibit or restrict the importation, use, supply or storage of injurious substances or articles, such as sky lanterns.

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Over 150 local councils, including many in Scotland, have already banned the release of sky lanterns on council property - but with no national legislation the group claimed the countryside and farms remained unprotected.

NFU Scotland was amongst the signatories to a letter demanding action, with president Martin Kennedy giving his full backing to the call for a ban on the reckless release of sky lanterns.

“Many local authorities in Scotland already ban their release on council-owned land but the Government must act now to deliver meaningful change.”

Kennedy said that sky lanterns represented an unacceptable risk to rural property, animal health and the landscape.

English NFU deputy president, Stuart Roberts, said the global community had already recognised the dangers of sky lanterns – with countries like Australia, Brazil, and Germany all already having national bans in place.

“This is a simple but incredibly effective and impactful step the government can take towards a safer, cleaner and greener rural Britain. We wouldn’t light a naked flame in our home and walk away, so why would we send one into the air with no idea whose home or habitat it could eventually destroy?”

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said sky lanterns were a blight on the countryside and incredibly dangerous: “Once released, there is no way of knowing where they will end up and all too often they end up strewn over fields, causing a major hazard for grazing livestock, not to mention the fire hazard risk they pose. It is high time their use was ended swiftly.”

The National Fire Chiefs Council’s Paul Hedley also favoured an outright ban: “Sky lanterns have been proven to start wildfires and property fires, kill or injure livestock, as well as polluting our natural environment. They put unnecessary strain on our critical services. Our advice is simple - don’t use them."

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Animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said that while they might look pretty, sky lanterns posed a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife: “Not only are they a serious fire hazard but the RSPCA has had reports of suffering animals through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment, or simply the sight of a lit lantern in the sky causing terrified animals to bolt and harm themselves.”