FARMING MATTERS: Lanterns are mayhem on farms

Chinese water lantern watched by cattle.
Chinese water lantern watched by cattle.

At this time of year sky lanterns can start to appear in the darkened inky blue evening skies.

And they are not only used at firework parties on bonfire night, they are also used to mark special celebrations such as weddings, family parties and of course the forthcoming New Year’s Eve which is only a couple of months away now.

But these lanterns, which are essentially small hot air balloons made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a candle is suspended, can float for miles before they fall to the ground.

And when they do, they not only become litter, but they can cause a danger to animals and they also become a potential fire hazard.

The National Farmers Union welcomed the introduction of a sky lantern code of practice in 2014, but continues to call for an outright ban.

NFU South East spokeswoman Isobel Bretherton said: “The various types of sky lanterns all cause problems when they land on farmland.

“Those with fine metal wire frames are much less common now, but they do not biodegrade.

“Wire can get tangled around an animal’s feet or become embedded in its skin.

“Wire-framed Chinese lanterns can cause death in cattle when the frames are eaten.

“The NFU has examples of this from post mortem reports on cattle from Buckinghamshire and West Sussex.

“In addition, bamboo-framed lanterns can splinter and cause injuries. In one case, a young calf got its head stuck in a bamboo framed lantern after New Year celebrations.

“If lanterns fall in crops of grass, their frames can be chopped up during hay making and silage making, possibly being consumed by animals at a later date, sometimes with disastrous results.

“In some of the worst cases, the NFU has heard of as many as 30 lanterns landing on a farm and the farmer being faced with a time consuming clear-up.”

The most serious crop fire caused by a Chinese lantern was in August 2010 in Oxfordshire, when six acres of barley worth several thousand pounds was lost near Stonesfield.

And in July 2013 a lantern caused a massive fire at a recycling depot in the West Midlands.