Farmers, conservationists and firefighters alike are united in their pleas to stop releasing sky lanterns in support of the NHS, owing to the dangers they pose to livestock and wildlife.
UK firm Night Sky Lanterns recently encouraged people to support the NHS by lighting a Union Jack sky lantern on Sundays, prompting an outcry from members of the public, as well as farmers. One comment on the company’s website branded the move ‘totally irresponsible’.
National Farmers Union said that while the idea of supporting the NHS may be “well-intentioned” sky lanterns are a serious fire risk and a danger to animals who ingest the debris.
“The NFU has campaigned against their use as we have heard from dozens of farmers over many years about the gruesome injuries sky lanterns have caused to their livestock and other animals, as well as devastating fire damage on farm to hay, straw and farm buildings,” a spokesperson said. “They also land as unnecessary litter wherever they fall.”
NFU said it is in contact with Night Sky Lanterns to express its concerns.
Fire services across the country have also spoken out against the initiative, with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) describing it as ‘misguided’.
NFCC chair Roy Wilsher said: “All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure due to Covid-19, and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.
“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could see firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time which could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire services response to Covid-19.”
Nearly 90 local authorities in the UK have banned the lanterns as they are a fire hazard and pose a threat to livestock, wildlife, agriculture, thatched properties and hazardous site materials.
Despite the outpouring of concern about the initiative, a post on Night Sky Lanterns’ website reads: ‘While we recognise that sky lanterns have caused inconveniences to farmers and some member of the public, we strongly believe that all those concerns are associated with poor quality sky lanterns which are not equipped with the latest innovative components, like those used to build premium, supreme and union jack sky lanterns…’
Fire services are urging people to take part in the Clap for the NHS initiative to show their support, rather than lighting a sky lantern.