The horse and farming community’s longstanding concerns about sky lanterns (also known as Chinese lanterns) have been highlighted by the recent terrible fire at a recycling plant in Birmingham.
The risk of causing fires is not the only danger when these decorations land – the component parts of the lanterns can be ingested by livestock and horses, causing serious internal injuries and even death.
The British Horse Society runs a website dedicated to the reporting of incidents involving horses, horseaccidents.org.uk. The charity has had a number of instances of sky lanterns causing problems for horses reported through the website, including that of a much-loved family pony which became severely ill after ingesting wire.
Patrick, a 14.1hh grey Connemara pony, was rushed to the vets in great distress. During surgery the vets found a very thin wire that he had obviously eaten, together with whatever vegetation it had been wrapped around. His insides were cut as the wire travelled through him.
His owner, Jessica Blackburn, and her family had previously found several sky lanterns in their horses’ grazing fields, so could only assume this was part of one that had been missed. Patrick had seven feet of his colon removed but has now made a remarkable recovery. If he had not been operated on so quickly the end to this story would have been very different.
Jessica’s mother, Chris Blackburn, said: “People don’t realise the danger that these lanterns pose. At times of celebration they are thinking how pretty they are and lovely to watch – not the hidden dangers and the damage they are going to do.
“If it hadn’t been for the yard manager finding him so early, Patrick probably wouldn’t be with us. It was the most distressing time for our family, very sadly we had lost my younger daughter’s horse the day before and the thought of losing Patrick too was unbearable.”
Mark Weston, from The British Horse Society, added: “When a sky lantern lands, the aftermath can be catastrophic for our livestock and horses. Until these lanterns are banned, we will unfortunately continue to see distressing stories like that of Patrick and the Blackburn family.
“The British Horse Society is working to stop the use of sky lanterns but we need everyone’s help to build up a true picture of the devastation they can cause. Please help us gather statistics by reporting any problems you experience on horseaccidents.org.uk.”