NFU explains the dangers of sky lanterns to Google

01 March 2021

An image of a sky lantern

A letter was sent to Google signed by NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts and co-signed by the RSPCA and the National Fire Chiefs Council to address the Google Doodle depicting an ox releasing a sky lantern in the air.


As we reach the final day of Chinese New Year and the lantern festivals begin it is great to see Chinese culture being celebrated in the Google doodle. However, we must stress the irony of an Ox happily sending something into the sky which can be harmful and potentially fatal to its species.

The origins of the lantern festival lie in decorating and displaying beautiful and complex lanterns, something everyone can enjoy. However, sending a naked flame inside a wire frame into the sky with no idea where it could land can be hugely damaging to the countryside, buildings, and animals, and we ask that you don’t promote this activity.

Google’s reach is vast. That is why it is important that you understand the damage sky lanterns can cause. The RSPCA reports that ingestion, entanglement, splinters/embedment, and fire are just some of the ways sky lanterns can kill animals. One of our members recently lost a cow, which had just borne a calf, due to sky lantern wire. This loss not only had a financial impact, but the family were emotionally devastated.

Sky lanterns are also fire hazards, The National Fire Chiefs Council and Fire and Rescue Services position is that people do not use sky lanterns:

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 ten were injured.

In April 2016, a fire was started by a sky lanterns on a nature reserve in Dorset where it burned and destroyed a total area of 40 acres and 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.

We fully support the celebration of all cultures; however, we ask that it is done in a safe way that protects our environment, our animals, and our farmers’ livelihoods. With more than 170 local councils already banning the release of sky lanterns on council property, the NFU hopes to see a national ban soon, in the way Malta, Germany, Austria, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Vietnam, Brazil and Australia already have. In the meantime we believe that Google has a responsibility to promote safe celebrations, such as decorating and displaying lanterns, rather than setting them off.

We would love to work further with Google on this issue. Please do get in touch, and you can find more information on the NFU’s website:

We look forward to your response,

Stuart Roberts

NFU Deputy President

Co Signed by:

Roy Wilsher

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council

Carianne Stones

RSPCA Campaign Manager

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