Sky lanterns being released© East News/REX/Shutterstock

In the run up to Bonfire Night, farmers and landowners are urging the public and county councils to consider the dangers of sky lanterns.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is calling for any councils that have not already banned the release of sky lanterns on their land to do so.

The CLA are also asking local authorities to outlaw the sale and release of lanterns on council property.

See also: Chinese New Year warning for farmers over sky lanterns

Twenty five councils in England have already banned sky lanterns, as well as the majority of Wales’ 22 local authorities, and the CLA want more to follow suit.

“A council ban sends out a strong message to the public that this is a very important issue and highlights the serious risks associated with releasing a sky lantern,” said CLA east regional director Ben Underwood.

“The fire risks associated with releasing sky lanterns is significant, posing a threat to homes, businesses and lives in both urban and rural areas.

“We strongly object to any guidance that suggests there is a safe way to light and release lanterns, because the safest thing to do is not to light them at all.

“They pose an enormous fire risk, and endanger the lives of both humans and animals.

“Even after it has finished flaming, the fuel cell of a lantern can register a spot temperature of more than 200C – and even after two minutes it can be about the 100C mark. 

“Lanterns landing or crossing fields can panic livestock, but the biggest concern to farmers is that their animals can suffer a slow, agonising death if they ingest debris from spent lanterns.”

Sky lanterns being released

© Xinhua News Agency/REX/Shutterstock

The CLA’s campaign to have lanterns banned has been running for almost three years and is supported by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, The Chief Fire Officers Association, and the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 local councils and all 49 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales.

The RSPCA also agrees with the plea, stating on its website: “We’re pleased that a number of local councils have already banned the use of sky lanterns on all council owned land and we’d like to see other councils follow suit.”

As well as the danger to animals, there is a risk of sky lanterns burning farm buildings containing bedding, crops in the fields and houses with thatched roofs.

First-hand experience

Last year, David Rowlands of Grange Farm, Mickle Trifford, Chester, experienced the problems of sky lanterns first hand.

The Rowlands family lost one of their pedigree Red Poll breeding cows to a sky lantern around bonfire night.

“She started staggering, so we treated her for staggers, but obviously it had no effect.

“The vets assessment was that the oesophagus had been pierced by wire from one of these wretched things, leading to asphyxiation,” Mr Rowlands explained.

“These sky lanterns have either wire or bamboo frames and essentially they’re cannon balls floating.

“Eventually they land and if they land in a field with cattle grazing, the cattle will investigate.

“The animals are inclined to chew things like this, the wire will splinter, penetrating their throats and causing swelling. It leads to asphyxiation, a horrible death taking about 48 hours.”

“How an animal-loving nation can tolerate this sort of risk to cattle and sheep baffles me,” he told Farmers Weekly.

But Mr Rowlands hopes if more councils ban them it will help as he says he doesn’t think it is deliberate nastiness of the people releasing them, more that they simply don’t understand the risks.

“Our cows don’t think they are worth the risk,” he said.

Fireworks

Fireworks also pose a big risk to property and livestock at this time of year.

Earlier this week, a Facebook post showing the damage a horse suffered when spooked by fireworks went viral.

The horse had to be put down due to extensive injuries.