A renewed push for a total ban on sky lanterns “to safeguard property and animals” is garnering strong support, with a Government petition topping 19,000 signatures – and counting.
NFU launched a petition in May to Tory MP Jo Churchill, Defra parliamentary under secretary of state (minister for agri-innovation and climate adaptation), calling for a total ban on sky lanterns in England and Wales. H&H has contacted Mrs Churchill’s office for comment.
NFU vice-president David Exwood told H&H the organisation has heard from “plenty of farmers about the devastating damage sky lanterns have caused to buildings and fields on their farms and the gruesome injuries they can cause to livestock and other animals”.
“Simply put, all these lanterns must land somewhere and while they may look pretty in the sky, they also become unnecessary litter across our beautiful countryside,” he said.
“We have already seen numerous councils ban sky lanterns, who have rightly recognised the danger they pose, and I would encourage the remaining local authorities to follow the good examples set across the country.”
The petition is part of the NFU’s long-running campaign for a sky lantern ban. In May 2021, 18 organisations – including NFU, the British Horse Society (BHS), Countryside Alliance, RSPCA and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) – wrote to environment minister Rebecca Pow and called on Government to make the use of sky lanterns illegal.
BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox told H&H that the charity worked with the NFU in 2021 to educate the public about the dangers of sky lanterns, alongside the NFU campaign.
“Sky lanterns can cause considerable trauma or distress to horses and livestock,” said Mr Hiscox.
“The BHS has received more than 25 reports from horse owners who have experienced alarming sky lantern incidents. Tragically, three of these reports were horse fatalities and six involved injuries to the horse.”
Mr Hiscox urged anyone planning on using them to “think hard” about the effect they could have on animals and the potential fire risk, and “strongly” encouraged people not to use them.
He added: “The BHS encourages horse owners and farmers to be vigilant in checking their fields and hedgerows, and report any incidents involving sky lanterns, however long ago, at horseincidents.org.uk.”
An RSPCA spokesman told H&H sky lanterns “pose a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife” and the number of signatures on this petition “shows the strength of public feeling”.
Tim Bamford, regional director of CLA South East, which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses, said: “Put simply, there is no responsible way to use sky lanterns.
“Releasing a naked flame into the skies, having absolutely no control where it will fall, can pose a significant risk to livestock, wildlife, the environment, and rural businesses.
“The CLA has been campaigning for a ban for many years, and it’s imperative that Government listens to the concerns of those living and working in the countryside.”
A Countryside Alliance spokesman told H&H sky lanterns are a “serious danger” to the countryside, livestock and wildlife.
“Drifting for miles they are a menace for farmers and landowners who frequently report sheep, cattle and horses being injured or even dying from eating the wire metal frames of the lanterns or being spooked by them, on top of the fire hazard they pose. Not only that, they are also a serious source of litter in the countryside,” he said.
“We urge people to think twice before letting them off and consider their impact after they have left their hands. If people cannot act responsibly, then firmer action is needed from the Government, which is why we support the calls from the NFU for a total ban.”
You might also be interested in:
A new coalition, comprising 18 bodies including the Countryside Alliance and the British Horse Society, has written to environment minister
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.