Following a campaign encouraging the public to release sky lanterns in support of the NHS, and a young filly being serious injured after being spooked by a hellium balloon, support for an outright ban on the release of similar items has been growing...
Calls have been made for balloon and sky lantern releases to be banned outright, after a “misguided” campaign and a serious equine injury.
The RSPCA and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) are among those that have spoken against Night Sky Lanterns’ campaign for people to buy and release Union Flag lanterns in support of the NHS, with money from sales going to support the service.
The company insists its lanterns are safe, eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable, made without wire, metal parts or asbestos, using fireproof paper and an “innovative” wick made of cloth, which “ensures that after burning.
But the RSPCA, while appreciating the fact people want to support the NHS, told H&H sky lanterns “pose a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife… through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment, or simply the sight of a lit lantern in the sky can be terrifying for them and cause them to bolt and harm themselves”.
In Wales, lantern releases are banned on all council-owned land, and 83 of 343 English councils have full bans.
“Now more than ever we’re urging all councils in England to pass this ban,” said the RSPCA spokesman, adding that more than 8,000 people have emailed councils through its website as part of its #EndSkyLitter action.
The lantern campaign came in the same week Esme Humpston’s nine-month-old filly Won More! sustained a horrific chest injury when, spooked by a helium balloon that had blown into her field, she tried to jump a post and rail fence in panic.
“It was a horrific thing to happen,” the filly’s owner Esme Humpston told H&H, adding that the filly will need months of box rest and treatment.
“If this is the damage a balloon can do, can you imagine if it had been a lantern?” she said.
“I know it was a freak accident but people need to be aware; they often don’t think that what goes up has to come down.
“The ironic thing is that it probably belonged to a little girl who loves ponies; a pretty unicorn balloon that nearly killed my own unicorn.”
Rosemary Lunn, a rider who is involved in the diving industry and who has been campaigning for balloon and lantern releases to be banned, has started a Change.org petition to the government.
She told H&H she has started petitions on the government website before, but that these have been dismissed, while a Change petition can run indefinitely.
“Who honestly thinks it’s sensible to put a fire in the sky and let it set off?” she said.
“It’s so annoying people think it’s ok, and don’t think about the consequences. Sky lanterns look pretty but as soon as they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind, the same with balloons, not realising they’re going to burn a horse or choke a cow, or kill a turtle somewhere.
“We’ve asked people to stop doing it, councils have banned it on their land, but you can do it if you take a step off [their land]. We’ve been nice and people have ignored it, now it’s time it was law.”
Asked about a ban, environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We all want to do our bit to show our appreciation for the NHS and frontline workers, but please stay safe and consider one of the many other ways of showing support.
“Sky lanterns pose a danger to our precious environment and wildlife, and can place a greater strain on our frontline services and key workers at this challenging time.”
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