Farm minister Jim Paice has urged revellers to think twice before using Chinese lanterns in celebrations this summer.
Releasing Chinese lanterns is increasingly popular at festivals, weddings and other celebrations across the UK. But after floating for many miles and falling to earth, the burnt-out remnants can hurt livestock and litter fields. Sheep, cattle and horses can be fatally injured by eating the metal wire frames, which pierce their internal organs.
Mr Paice said people should think twice about using the lanterns because they were causing problems in the countryside. He has asked the British Hospitality Association to advise its membership of hotels, restaurants and other venues of the problems.
The association should ask members to discourage customers from using the lanterns, said Mr Paice.
“I don’t want to stop people’s enjoyment, but I urge everyone to think twice about the impact of a sky lantern after it leaves their hands, and to find another way to celebrate.”
Farmers in some areas are being forced to scour fields to pick up the remanents of lanterns – often lit many miles away.
Mr Paice’s warning comes ahead of this week’s Glastonbury festival, which already has a policy of discouraging the use of Chinese lanterns. Other music festivals have banned them for revellers’ safety.
Mr Paice said: “Anyone who’s seen sky lanterns at night knows how spectacular they are, but they probably don’t know how they can cut a cow’s insides to ribbons and be devastating to the countryside.”
Chinese lanterns caused the death of four prime animals worth £4,000 in a single month at Lodge Farm, Milton Malsor, Northamptonshire.
Gordon and Jane Trehame farm 160ha (400 acres), with suckler cows, beef, sheep and arable on the edge of Northampton.
Mrs Trehame is a member of the Women’s Food and Farming Union, which has long campaigned against Chinese lanterns.
She said: “We are worried that there are still many more lanterns out there, which people have not used yet, and this is a time bomb waiting to explode.”