NFU says don’t release ‘mobile fireballs’

An NFU poster warning of the dangers of Chinese Lanterns
An NFU poster warning of the dangers of Chinese Lanterns

With harvest fast approaching, the NFU is again urging people to think twice about releasing Chinese lanterns.

The NFU, Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU) and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) have once more highlighted how sky lanterns can cause major fires and harm or even kill animals. Their pleas follow a massive fire at a recycling depot in the west midlands on July 1.

NFU South East Environment and Land Use Adviser John Archer said: “Chinese lanterns really can cause fires on an industrial scale and we’d like to see them banned. Lanterns pose a big fire risk to crops that are ripening in the sun and we’ve had numerous reports of them landing in fields and farmyards. Please don’t release them - valuable food could literally go up in smoke or you could cause a wild fire.

“Although they look attractive, Chinese lanterns can kill or maim farm animals. Cows have died from ingesting the fine wire from lanterns. Lanterns fall into grass crops and the wire gets chopped up when crops are harvested to make animal feed. Animals also get entangled in them.”

Women’s Food and Farming Union vice president Eunice Finney warned that Chinese lanterns were more dangerous than fireworks and they could cause a death.

The Marine Conservation Society’s head of conservation, Mike Cook, said lanterns had been mistaken for marine distress flares and caused numerous false alarms for rescue services. He added: “MCS volunteers regularly find bits of lanterns on beaches during the hundreds of beach cleans that we carry out every year. The paper may have gone but the frames are still intact and dangerous – both to humans and marine wildlife. These mobile fireballs have to come down somewhere, and it’s often on farmland or out at sea.”

The NFU is logging problems caused by Chinese lanterns, to lobby for a ban. It remains concerned about the bamboo frames used in many lanterns as they are prone to splintering.