The popularity of Chinese lanterns seems to be increasing and they are used for many varied events and occasions.
However, while these lanterns are a pretty sight flying across the sky at night, the potential for harm when they descend is catastrophic.
Many who marvel at the sight would be horrified to learn of the terrible injuries and deaths horses and other animals have experienced due to these lanterns, which are intended to celebrate and bring good luck. They bring anything but this to farmers, horse owners and land owners.
The BHS have received terrible reports of internal and external injuries to horses and other livestock caused by wires from these lanterns. There is no way of controlling where they go and where they land.
Many manufacturers of these lanterns now say they are fully biodegradable and do not contain any wire. While this is a positive step, there has to be some material which will give the lantern structure and therefore offers the potential for animals to eat them or become trapped and injure themselves.
Bamboo is frequently used but is very strong and resistant. Disintegration of biodegradable materials is not instant and therefore the lanterns will present the same hazards, biodegradable or not.
Several councils, including all Welsh councils, have now banned the release of sky lanterns on council owned land.
Our advice to horse owners therefore has to be vigilance. Make sure you check your fields and hedgerows for these lanterns regularly and as part of your daily field management checks.
Please report any incidents or problems with these lanterns. Without evidence of problems, we can’t lobby those in power to make changes.
In 2012, DEFRA commissioned a report into the effects of Chinese Lanterns and Helium Balloons. If you have any queries about this report, please contact the DEFRA Helpline on 08459 335577.