Defra inquiry into dangers of sky lanterns to livestock
As Hallowe’en is celebrated around the West this week, with sky lanterns aplenty, the Government is expected to launch a long-awaited inquiry into their impact on livestock.
After years of campaigning from the likes of the Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU), Defra has confirmed it will launch an “independent study” to “find out just what effect [these lanterns] are having on farming and the environment”.
In a written statement to Parliament, new Farming Minister David Heath said: “In order to assess the extent of the dangers posed by sky lanterns and possible steps to address such dangers, Defra proposes to commission an independent study to examine in detail the scale of the risks associated with the use of sky lanterns, and their impact on livestock, plants and the environment. The results of this study will help inform any future Government action.”
The WFU has enjoyed growing support for a ban on sky lanterns (also known as Chinese lanterns) that are a popular part of Hallowe’en and wedding celebrations.
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WFU president Helen Bower said: “Our members first started campaigning for a ban on the lanterns three years ago, so we are delighted there will be an inquiry.”
Mrs Bower said the group had evidence, pictures and “a constant stream” of post-mortem examinations to prove how dangerous the lanterns can be.
The wire frame of the lanterns, for instance, can get chopped up in hay or silage and then eaten by cattle and this can lead to traumatic pericarditis, which can be fatal in cattle.
Jamie Foster, a partner at agricultural law specialists Clarke Willmott, said the lanterns can lead to suspicions that farmers are failing to look after their animals.
“Livestock owners have a legal duty under the Animal Welfare Act to protect their livestock from injury or illness,” he said.
“It can be difficult to protect livestock from being affected by the wire from Chinese lanterns because it’s very difficult to detect when it falls into fields.
“It can also be difficult to diagnose the effects on livestock of ingesting the wire and farmers can be suspected of failing to care for their animals properly when in fact the problem is the wire from Chinese lanterns.”