A reminder has been issued on the dangers of sky lanterns as farmers harvest and continue to bale hay and straw.
A farmer in Aberdeenshire this week found a lantern on top of a row of straw waiting to be baled and within feet of a field of barley yet to be harvested. No harm was done but, he said: “The outcome could have been very different and very costly”, citing the risks to both animals and property.
A British Horse Society (BHS) spokesman said “Sky lanterns are a particular cause of concern for horse owners, as there is simply no way of controlling where they land, and they have the potential to injure or kill equines, as well as posing a significant risk to buildings.
“Our advice is to be vigilant, and examine fields and hedgerows as part of daily field management checks. We would ask all horse owners to report any incidents involving sky lanterns, however long ago, to the BHS at www.horseaccidents.org.uk.”
Since 2011 the BHS has received 20 reports from horse owners about incidents involving sky lanterns which include three equine fatalities and six injures.
“Horse owners can play a vital role in helping us to build an accurate picture of the problems sky lanterns cause,” said the spokesman.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCormick told H&H: “Across the UK, there have been many reports now of fires started by lanterns and harm to the health of livestock when lanterns have landed in farmers’ fields and been eaten.
“There is a further risk to stock when grass is cut and ensiled for winter feed, and the wire is chopped up and subsequently contained in hay or silage.”
More than 60 local authorities in England and Wales and 14 in Scotland have introduced a ban on sky lanterns being released on their property.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “The NFU has heard from plenty of farmers about the devastating damage sky lanterns have caused to buildings and fields on their farm and the gruesome injuries they can cause to livestock and other animals.
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“Simply put, all of these lanterns must land somewhere and while they may look pretty in the sky, they also become unnecessary litter across our beautiful countryside.
“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.”
NFU Scotland said there is “still work to be done“ and greater awareness needed of the risks involved in letting off sky lanterns and helium balloons and their impact on farmland and livestock.
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