Sky lantern inquiry welcomed by WFU

AS Halloween is celebrated around the UK this week, with sky lanterns aplenty, the Government is expected to launch a long-awaited inquiry into their impact on livestock.

After years of campaigning from the likes of the Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU), Defra has confirmed it will launch an ‘independent study’ to ‘find out just what effect [these lanterns] are having on farming and the environment’.

In a written statement to Parliament, new Farming Minister David Heath said: “In order to assess the extent of the dangers posed by sky lanterns and possible steps to address such dangers, Defra proposes to commission an independent study to examine in detail the scale of the risks associated with the use of sky lanterns, and their impact on livestock, plants and the environment. The results of this study will help inform any future Government action.”

The WFU has enjoyed growing support for a ban on sky lanterns – also known as Chinese lanterns – which have become a popular part of Halloween and wedding celebrations.

WFU president Helen Bower said: “Our members first started campaigning for a ban on the lanterns three years ago, so we are delighted there will be an inquiry.”


Mrs Bower said the group had evidence, pictures and ‘a constant stream’ of post-mortems to prove how dangerous the lanterns can be.

The wire frame of the lanterns, for instance, can get chopped up in hay or silage and then eaten by cattle and this can lead to traumatic pericarditis, which can be fatal in cattle.

Jamie Foster, a partner at agricultural law specialists Clarke Willmott, said the lanterns can lead to suspicion farmers are failing to look after their animals.

“Livestock owners have a legal duty under the Animal Welfare Act to protect their livestock from injury or illness,” he said.

“It can be very difficult to protect livestock from being affected by the wire from Chinese lanterns because it’s very difficult to detect when it falls into fields. It can also be difficult to diagnose the effects of ingesting the wire and farmers can be suspected of failing to care for their animals properly when in fact the problem is the wire from Chinese lanterns.”

Defra said it is aware of concerns about the impacts of sky lanterns and has taken steps to raise public awareness about the potential dangers they pose.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Sir, barns can be set alight with these lanterns very easily, also fuel retailers would be in trouble if a lantern was blown on to the forecourt, also aircraft are vulnerable it can confuse the pilot, these lanterns need banning now, but I suppose like everything else in this country it will take a tragedy for the government to act.

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  • Defra may be aware of concerns but making the general public aware of the dangers WILL NOT STOP them lighting them. Only an out right ban will do this. Having lost a valuable animal to one and seen the damagege caused by a fire started by one. Surely no more consultations are needed. BAN THEM NOW

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