THE FARMERS UNION OF WALES today welcomed Pembrokeshire County Council’s decision to back the union’s campaign to persuade Welsh local authorities to ban the release of sky lanterns on all the land they own.
The union has also urged other local authorities, other landowning bodies and retailers around Wales to follow suit.
“We welcome the county council’s decision to ban sky lanterns and we regard it as an opportunity to repeat the union’s long-standing campaign for a total ban on them,” said FUW Pembrokeshire county chairman Hywel Vaughan.
“We would also make a similar plea to hotels and other wedding venues to introduce such a ban at their premises.”
The council’s cabinet recommended the introduction of a voluntary ban on the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from council owned or controlled land and called for a communication exercise to make consumers and charity organisations aware of the associated risks.
“Cabinet members were told the FUW was among a wide range of organisations, including the Marine Conservation Society, RNLI, RSPCA and various fire and rescue services, concerned about the possible impact of sky lanterns and helium balloons on livestock and the environment,” added Mr Vaughan.
“Those concerns include risks to animal welfare through ingestion of debris left by them in the countryside, the sea and on the coastline. As sky lanterns contain a naked flame, there were additional concerns about the fire risk to buildings, property and crops from uncontrolled landings,” Mr Vaughan added.
Last year the Welsh Government and Defra jointly commissioned an independent research project on the impact on livestock, plants and the environment of sky lantern and helium balloon releases but their report concluded any impact on the environment and risk of widespread injury or death to livestock was low.
However, it found the risk from sky lanterns to buildings, agricultural crops and moorland was significant and the Welsh Government is now encouraging local authorities to introduce a voluntary ban on the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from council owned or controlled land and discourage their use and release wherever possible.
In evidence to the joint report, the FUW stated that after consulting its members throughout Wales it received numerous reports of lanterns found in fields being grazed, about to be grazed, or cut for silage or hay.
Other more serious reports received included a lantern found smouldering in a barn containing hay and straw and a cow injured following a stampede started by lanterns floating over fields containing livestock.
“The materials used in the construction of these lanterns pose a danger to livestock, particularly if the wire or bamboo from the frame of the lantern is chopped up during the silage making process and contaminates feedstocks,” said Mr Vaughan.
“We have also repeatedly warned that sky lanterns pose a considerable fire risk and this latest incident demonstrates why there should be an outright ban on the manufacture and sale of sky lanterns, and that their release should be made illegal in the UK.”