Chinese Sky Lanterns Banned in Wales
Following a concerted campaign, sky lanterns have been banned across all public land in Wales. There have been numerous incidents of the lanterns scaring horses, pets and farm animals and RSPCA Cymru have been lobbying for a ban for some time.
The Dangers of Sky Lanterns
Sky lanterns are traditional Chinese lanterns which feature a paper hot air balloon with a small fire beneath. Concerns over the dangers of the lanterns have been growing for years and in 2014 the government issued new guidelines for their use. These stated that the lanterns should not be released by those under the influence of alcohol and that air traffic control should be notified if lanterns are to be released within 10 miles of an airfield.
The guidelines include instructions for the manufacture and use of the lanterns. They state that two people should launch lanterns and they should not be set free near crops, haystacks or power lines. The government issued the guidelines in the wake of an industrial fire in Smethwick. Investigators believe a sky lantern was the cause of the blaze in which 10 firefighters were injured.
Sky Lanterns and Horses
There have been a number of incidents in which Chinese sky lanterns have harmed horses. The lanterns have spooked horses and caused them to suffer burns and ingest wire. In 2015 a yard owner reported finding 19 sky lanterns on her property. She said that one of her horses had panicked and then run straight through the fence of his paddock. In 2016, a horse in Essex had severe burns caused by a sky lantern. Further incidents are inevitable unless there is a complete ban.
Banned with Immediate Effect
The ban in Wales has come into force with immediate effect and there have been no noticeable voices of dissent. Everyone appears to be happy with the ban which will keep the dangerous lanterns away from animals and property. The lanterns may look pretty but they represent a serious hazard to animals, crops and the landscape. In addition to the obvious risk of fire, the lanterns leave debris which is potentially harmful for a variety of wildlife.
Sky Lanterns in the UK
The RSPCA is now lobbying for a ban on releasing sky lanterns on private as well as public land in Wales. The country could soon be completely free of sky lanterns but the fight for a ban continues in the rest of the UK. Essex, Staffordshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire county councils have already banned the lanterns as have Chesham town council and Waveney district council.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has launched a letter-writing campaign which urges the public to lobby for a ban. They have created a template which can be signed and sent to local authorities.
Pressure is mounting as farmers, equestrians and environmentalists are all seeking a ban on the lanterns. It is probably only a matter of time before the rest of the UK follows the Welsh lead. However, there will always be people who will ignore the law.
Have sky lanterns troubled your horse? Let us know what you have seen.