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British Horse Society issues sky lantern warning as festive celebrations loom

The British Horse Society (BHS) is urging people to “think twice” before releasing sky lanterns during the festive period – as owners are encouraged to be vigilant in checking their fields.

In a collaboration with the National Farmers Union (NFU), the organisation has asked people to spare a thought for horses and livestock as they plan their Christmas and new year celebrations. The NFU has had a long-running campaign calling on councils to ban the release of sky lanterns and to date more than 160 have banned their release on council-owned land, including all councils in Wales.

“While the decorative lanterns may look pretty floating across the night sky, they can cause horrific injuries to animals, or even death, when they come back down to earth,” said a BHS spokesman. “The wire used in sky lanterns can cause serious internal or external injuries if a horse encounters one in their field or even ingests it.

“As prey animals, horses can be frightened by sky lanterns looming above them. With no way of controlling where they travel or land, sky lanterns also pose a fire risk to buildings, stables and barns. The environmental harm of these lanterns can also be devastating to the UK’s green spaces.

“The BHS encourages horse owners and farmers to be vigilant in checking their fields and hedgerows.”

NFU figures show around 200,000 sky lanterns are sold and released each year. The BHS has received 21 reports of incidents involving sky lanterns since 2011 but the spokesman said only one in 10 incidents are reported.

“Tragically, three of these reports were horse fatalities and six involved horse injuries,” said the BHS spokesman.

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“With no national UK legislation regulating sky lanterns, the NFU are focusing their lobbying efforts at local councils, encouraging them to implement a ban on council-owned land,” said the spokesman.

BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox said sky lanterns and fireworks may be enjoyable for some, but they can cause “considerable trauma” or distress to horses.

“We would urge anyone planning on setting them off during the festive period to consider the effect it may have on local animals and the potential fire risk to stables or outbuildings,” he said.

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