Warning over risk to farm stock from Chinese lanterns

Bonfire time is approaching and with it the increased risk of farm fires caused by Chinese lanterns, according to a warning issued by NFU Scotland.

Chinese lanterns are a fire risk to hay, straw and buildings, warned NFU Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Chinese lanterns are a fire risk to hay, straw and buildings, warned NFU Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Although claiming it does not want to be seen as a spoilsport, the union would like to see these lanterns banned for both personal use and from being part of any display.

The lanterns, which are constructed from paper with a wire or wooden frame and contain a lighted candle, are, according to the union, a proven fire risk as well as being a potential danger to animals.

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The lanterns pose a fire hazard to stacks of hay and straw, woodland and farm buildings. On animal welfare worries, if they land within crops grown to feed livestock, the frames risk being ingested.

Currently it is believed that eight Scottish local authorities – Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Falkirk, Highland, Perth & Kinross and Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands – have banned the release of sky lanterns.

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In addition to union headquarters writing to the other local authorities asking them to take similar action, members are being asked to write to their local council supporting a ban.

The use of fireworks close to livestock is also causing the union concern and it is asking those who set up public firework displays to take the time to consider any livestock that may be nearby in order to avoid causing unnecessary stress.

Union animal health and welfare policy manager Penny Johnston said: “We believe people can have a great evening while taking the needs of those who live and work in the countryside into consideration.

“Sky lanterns are seemingly innocent devices, and are beautiful to look at, but they can cause untold damage as there is no control over where these burning structures of paper, metal and wood decide to land.

“Across the UK, there have been many reports now of fires started by lanterns and harm to the health of livestock when lanterns have landed in farmers’ fields and been eaten. There is a further risk to stock when grass is cut and ensiled for winter feed, and the wire is chopped up and subsequently contained in hay or silage.

“Although winter is approaching, the fantastic autumn weather means that many livestock can still be found in the fields around Scotland’s cities, towns and villages. Taking the time to inform their keepers of any planned or private firework displays may prevent any unnecessary suffering for animals.”