RSPCA increases pressure for ban on Chinese lanterns
The RSPCA has become the latest national organisation to call for Chinese lanterns to be banned, amid fears for the safety of grazing livestock and wildlife
It joins the likes of the National Farmers’ Union, the Marine Conservation Society, the Soil Association and the Women’s Food and Farming Union in calling for a ban and appealing for help to reach a target of 20,000 signatures on a petition to be delivered to the Government.
It said supposedly biodegradable alternatives to more traditional metal-framed lanterns were just as bad. The co-ordinated campaign wants the release of Chinese lanterns to become socially unacceptable.
The dangers of the paper lanterns were first highlighted by farmers in the region several years ago. They are held by a rigid frame and sent skywards by a lit candle. They burn for up to half an hour or more and can travel on the wind for miles.
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They can cause a fire if still lit when they land. Firefighters in Wiltshire were the first to report a house fire sparked by a lantern landing on a roof, while lanterns have been suspected as the cause of several thatched cottage fires.
The frames can also trap wildlife and, if they fall onto grazing land, they can be eaten by cattle or sheep. If they land on fields, the frames are shredded when grass is cut for hay. Dairy farmers – in the West in particular – have long reported cows with internal injuries caused by shards of metal from Chinese lanterns in their winter feed.
The joint campaign is calling on people to pick up debris from lanterns and to discourage others from using them.
It also asks people to contact event planners and retailers to ask them to seek harmless alternatives, and to contact local councils about planned releases and discourage organisers from holding them.
An RSPCA spokesman said: “Chinese lanterns pose a threat to wildlife, livestock and other animals by causing injuries that lead to suffering and a slow painful death. The RSPCA advise against the use of Chinese lanterns and recommend the use of harmless alternatives instead.
“The Government is now launching an independent study to assess the risks sky lanterns pose to livestock, crops and the environment and see what could be done to address concerns.
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘biodegradable’ lanterns are safe. Bamboo can take decades to degrade and the sharp parts can cause injury to animals.”