A terrible fire in the West Midlands caused by a Chinese lantern has prompted further demands from the British Horse Society (BHS) and Country Land and Business Association (CLA) for them to be banned.
Late last month (30 June) a blaze at a recycling plant in Smethwick left 11 firefighters injured and caused £6m of damage.
“This fire has drawn attention to the long-held concerns that the rural community have about their use,” said a BHS spokesman. “The risk of causing fires is not the only danger — the parts can be ingested by horses causing serious internal injuries and even death.”
The BHS says it has seen four incidents this year. The worst the organisation has seen recently was Patrick (pictured below), a 14.1hh Connemara, who had to have 7 feet of his colon removed. During surgery, vets found he had eaten a very thin wire that had lacerated his intestines.
“People don’t realise the danger that these lanterns pose,” said Patrick’s owner Chris Blackburn.
Last summer Sally-Ann Spence urged fellow riders to sign an epetition to ban sky lanterns after her 12-year-old thoroughbred had to be put down. He suffered extensive internal damage after ingesting a wire from a lantern.
Around a quarter of a million Chinese lanterns are sold each year in the UK. The CLA says the government must recognise the dangers.
“We have been calling for action to outlaw them for the past four years. The concept of launching a flaming bonfire into the night sky with absolutely no idea of where it will land has always seemed reckless and bizarre,” said the CLA’s John Mortimer.
But a Defra spokesperson told H&H that according to research “any widespread risk of injury and death to livestock and impact on the environment is low.”
However, they confirmed Defra is “working to improve safety” by raising awareness of the risks of sky lanterns and responsible use — by launching a leaflet and working with National Trust and the British Hospitality Association. It is also asking councils to look at licensing of mass releases of lanterns.
• To report an incident visit: www.horseaccidents.org.uk
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (11 July, 2013 issue)