National sky lantern ban needed

Sky lanterns can injure or kill farm animals and wildlife

The government should act now and make the use of sky lanterns illegal, that’s the message from leading farming, environment, animal and fire organisations.

The group made up of 18 organisations has written to Environment Minister Rebecca Pow to explain how the Government’s approach not to regulate sky lanterns is now significantly out of date1 and out of line with other countries, where the release of sky lanterns is considered an environmental crime due to the harm they cause animals, habitats and the countryside.

By enacting Section 140 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 the Secretary of State can prohibit or restrict the importation, use, supply or storage of injurious substances or articles, such as sky lanterns. 186 local councils have already banned the release of sky lanterns on council property but with no national legislation the countryside and our farms remain unprotected.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said:

“The global community is already recognising the dangers of sky lanterns. Countries like Australia, Brazil, and Germany already have national bans, and we must join them.

“This is a simple but incredibly effective and impactful step the government can take towards a safer, cleaner and greener rural Britain. We wouldn’t light a naked flame in our home and walk away, so why would we send one into the air with no idea whose home or habitat it could eventually destroy?”

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive, Countryside Alliance, said: “Sky lanterns are a blight on the countryside and incredibly dangerous. Once released, there is no way of knowing where they will end up and all too often they end up strewn over fields, causing a major hazard for grazing livestock, not to mention the fire hazard risk they pose. It is high time their use was ended swiftly.”

Paul Hedley, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Wildfire Lead, said: "NFCC fully supports a ban. Sky lanterns have been proven to start wildfires and property fires, kill or injure livestock, as well as polluting our natural environment. They put unnecessary strain on our critical services. Our advice is simple - don’t use them."

Allison Ogden-Newton, CEO of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Although beautiful and often used for sentimental or celebratory purposes, the truth is that what goes up must come down and sky lanterns inevitably become litter. We believe that asking the government to ban sky lanterns will awaken everyone to this fact.” 

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said: "Though sky lanterns might look pretty in the sky, they pose a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife.

“Sadly, many people are unaware of the potentially deadly consequences the release of sky lanterns can have for animals. Not only are they a serious fire hazard but the RSPCA has had reports of suffering animals through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment, or simply the sight of a lit lantern in the sky causing terrified animals to bolt and harm themselves.

"We know many people are already aware of the dangers sky lanterns pose to animals and we are pleased to work in coalition with the National Farmers Union and others to raise awareness within the UK government of our concerns.”


More information:

Current legislation is based on a 2013 Defra study.

The coalition is calling for Section 140 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to be enacted in order to implement a national ban. Section 140 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations to prohibit or restrict the importation, use, supply or storage of injurious substances or articles, such as sky lanterns.

Case studies:

  • In 2013 Jonny and Tamsin Fuller, who have an arable and livestock farm in Cambridgeshire, lost a cow after it ingested wire from a sky lantern. To see a cow die in a slow painful way was difficult for the farming couple who put a lot of   time and effort into rearing their cattle and were now left with a newborn calf that had to be hand reared.
  • Also in 2013 a sky lantern set fire to around 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling at a factory in Smethwick – the largest ever blaze in the West Midlands. Around 200 members of the firefighters attended and 10 were injured.
  • In April 2016, a fire was started by a sky lantern on a nature reserve in Dorset where it burned and destroyed a total area of 40 acres. It killed a range of wildlife and the habitat they lived in. 
  • In January 2020, a sky lantern caused a devastating fire at a zoo in Germany killing more than 30 animals. This fire led to the eventual national ban on sky lanterns currently in effect in Germany.

Who signed the letter?

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, CEO of Keep Britain Tidy  

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association 

David Bowles, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) 

David Brown, Deputy President of the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU) 

Des Payne, Safety Team Leader of The British Horse Society (BHS) 

Dr Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs, The Kennel Club.

Ellie Brodie, Head of Land Management at The Wildlife Trust  

Eoghan Cameron, Chairman of The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) 

Gina Bradbury Fox and Julia Bradbury, Managing Directors of The Outdoor Guide 

John Davies, President of National Farmers’ Union Cymru (NFU Cymru) 

Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA)  

Mark Coulman, National Chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) 

Martin Kennedy President of the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) 

Paul Branch, Head of Claims of NFU Mutual Insurance UK (NFU Mutual) 

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive Officer of the Marine Conservation Society UK (MCS) 

Stuart Roberts, Deputy President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) 

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance 

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