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The harmful side of sky lanterns | Celebrate responsibly this festive period

16 Dec 2020

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The British Horse Society (BHS) is asking people to spare a thought for horses and livestock at this time of year and celebrate responsibly this festive period.

As people plan their celebrations during Christmas and New Year, the BHS is collaborating with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and urging people to think twice before releasing a sky lantern. While the decorative lanterns may look pretty floating across the night’s sky, they can cause horrific injuries to animals, or even death, when they come back down to Earth.

The wire used in sky lanterns can cause serious internal or external injuries if a horse encounters one in their field or even ingests it. The BHS has received more than 20 reports from horse owners who have had incidents involving sky lanterns. Tragically, three of these reports were horse fatalities and six involved horse injuries.

As prey animals, horses can be frightened by sky lanterns looming above them. With no way of controlling where they travel or where they land, sky lanterns also pose a fire risk to buildings, stables and barns. The environmental harm of these lanterns can also be devastating to the UK’s green spaces. The BHS encourages horse owners and farmers to be vigilant in checking their fields and hedgerows.

According to the NFU, around 200,000 sky lanterns are sold and released each year. With no national UK legislation regulating sky lanterns, the NFU are focusing their lobbying efforts at local councils, encouraging them to implement a ban on council owned land. If you want to get involved in the work the NFU is doing, take a look here:


It is not just sky lanterns that pose a threat to horses and livestock at this time of year. With an increase in fireworks during the holiday season, the BHS is also reminding people of the catastrophic effects’ fireworks can have. The BHS asks people to follow these steps to help protect horses.

1. Letting your neighbours know in advance. This gives them time to prepare, such as having someone with their horse or to even have the horse sedated.

2. Consider quiet or silent fireworks. These allow you to enjoy the same fabulous display without spooking any surrounding animals.

3. Make sure that you aim any rockets away from fields or stables. Debris can cause injury to horses and stables may pose a fire risk.

Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at The British Horse Society, said:

“Sky lanterns and fireworks may be enjoyable for some people, but they can cause considerable trauma or distress to horses. We would urge anyone planning on setting them off during the festive period to consider the effect it may have on local animals and the potential fire risk to stables or outbuildings.”

The BHS asks all horse owners to please report any incidents involving sky lanterns or fireworks, however long ago, at www.horseincidents.org.uk

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