Warning as sky lanterns put livestock health at risk

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THE UK farming minister Jim Paice is calling for people to think before they set off sky lanterns at celebrations.

For their burnt out remains are injuring cattle, sheep and horses.

He said: “I don’t want to stop people’s enjoyment but I urge everyone to find another way to celebrate.”

The lanterns, which are set alight and float off into the sky like mini hot air balloons, are increasingly popular at festivals, wedding and other celebrations. Sheep, cattle and horses are being injured, and in some cases dying, from eating the metal wire frames, which pierce their internal organs.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) in Scotland said the Borders has not been particularly hit by the activity.

NFU Scotland livestock policy manager, Penny Johnston added: “There is a further risk to cattle when grass is cut and ensiled for winter feed, and the wire is chopped up and subsequently contained in hay or silage. The lanterns also pose a fire hazard to dry standing crops, forestry and farm buildings, not to mention the problem of unsightly litter they cause.”

Farmers have voiced their concern though no harm has come to animals, crops or buildings yet and members are being asked to let the union know if there is a problem.

And all of the UK’s unions have written to the lantern manufacturers urging them to tackle the problem.

“Until they are made from materials which are either consumed by the flame before they reach the ground or of a substance which biodegrades quickly and will not harm livestock if they become entangled in or ingest it, then the sale and use of sky lanterns should be banned, as is the case in Germany and Lithuania.

“Farmers do check their ground routinely, but it is impossible to survey every area of the farm frequently and at close enough range to detect pieces of litter such as sky whether lantern remains, particularly if they fall in a standing crop,” said Ms Johnston.

General manager of the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel in Peeblesshire, Morag Stark said: “In the past guests of the hotel have brought lanterns which they have let off in the evening.

“In light of the reports from the Minister of Agriculture we will now, of course, be reviewing our policies. We were not aware that the lanterns had the potential to harm animals.”