Warning on menace of Chinese lanterns

THE National Farmers’ Union is urging people not to release Chinese lanterns at summer celebrations, following the driest spring on record in the South East.

With the party season under way, the organisation is warning people that the flying lanterns can cause fires, kill farm animals and litter the countryside.

NFU South East spokeswoman Isobel Bretherton said: “We’re asking people to think twice and decide against releasing Chinese lanterns. They may look attractive but they often land on farmland, with potentially disastrous results.”

She explained: “The wire frame of lanterns can accidentally be eaten by farm animals, particularly cattle, causing slow, agonising deaths. Animals can be injured when they get entangled in the wire or bamboo-frames.

“This summer, the risk of fire is greater than ever and Chinese lanterns pose a serious threat when they land in farmyards and fields. A fire now could leave a farmer without any winter feed for animals or facing an income shortfall if crops go up in smoke. It is well known that they caused serious crop fires last summer.”

The Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) shares the NFU’s concern about the fire risk that Chinese lanterns pose.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Clark, Chairman of the CFOA National Prevention Committee, said: “We have seen the devastating effects that fires can have on the economy and the beauty of our local areas. Although Chinese lanterns can look spectacular, once airborne they cannot be controlled. The recent forest fire in Berkshire is a reminder of how destructive fires can be.”

Chinese lanterns have been banned in countries including Germany, Australia and parts of New Zealand.

The NFU remains committed to persuading people against releasing them. And this summer it is redoubling its efforts to advise the owners of party venues, holiday parks and the wider public not to release lanterns with its ‘Think Twice’ campaign.

The NFU has continued to provide evidence of the problem to Defra and BIS.