Yes, they are beautiful, yes they are fun, and yes, many have a great emotional attachment to them. And now it seems that no celebration is complete without them. But they are a menace to farmers, crops and farm animals, to the wildlife and the environment and even to landing aircraft and boats at sea. And to festival goers who get burnt. What are they? Those Chinese ‘sky’ paper lanterns that are fuelled by buring oil and float away into the night sky.
Dorset and Somerset Fire Service have reported a marked increase in lantern fires in the past year and Somerset MP David Heath has also called for action to make Chinese Lanterns safe to livestock and wildlife. Speaking in parliament, Mr Heath drew attention to the growing trend to set off Chinese lanterns, which are carried by convection currents across the countryside. Apart from the fire risk, Mr Heath said that the lanterns contain a metal wire which, if it is chopped up into hay or silage can cause harm to cattle and other livestock. Mr Heath said: “This is a growing trend in our part of the world, particularly at the open air festivals like Glastonbury, and I can well understand the attractions. The illuminated paper lanterns look spectacularly beautiful against the night sky. Unfortunately, the problem comes when they land in fields which are subsequently mown and as a result we get fragments of wire in animal feed-stuffs. I certainly don’t want to be a kill joy, and I certainly don’t want to ban them, but I hope the government will take action to ensure they are made in such a way as to avoid the metal wire and replace it with something biodegradable. I gather a lot of these are imported from China, and safe alternatives do exist. It would be far better for the safety of animals if they were the ones that people used from choice.”
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have also pointed out that over 500 false alarms last year were put down to lanterns being mistaken for flares at sea and the coastguard being called out for no good reason, and now The National Farmers Union and the Civil Aviation Authority have called for a ban on the sale of “sky” lanterns
We read this interesting post on a festival discussion board “They are officially banned at Glastonbury festival and have been for a couple of years if you read the festival small print but more and more do seem to come in each year. They were not so bad years ago when it was just a few being let off from the stone circle but now you get all sorts of muppets trying to launch them in the middle of the crowd down at the stages. Frequently they don’t get airborne enough and just come down on someone’s unsuspecting head or tip hot wax on some poor sod about ten people away from the muppet that launched it (or failed to), can’t believe the idiocy of some people. Only a matter of time before one lands amongst the tightly packed nylon tents at Glasto or Reading etc and either the tents or the dry grass around them turns into a major people-cooking disaster.”
The Glastonbury Festival confirmed that it already asked festival goers not to bring lanterns on site – to protect Worthy Farm and the surrounding countryside and told us that the Festival was still actively discouraging lanterns along with wax flares and fireworks except for the official display in 2011. Lattitude has also joined the growing number of festivals banning Sky lanterns. They are pretty, they are lovely – but they are pretty destructive too and if you really do love the countryside then it is best to adopt the policy of ‘leave no trace’. So please just say “no” to Chinese lanterns.