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Animal charity backs sky lantern and helium balloon ban


Airborne objects present a danger to vulnerable animals and pets

A charity is backing a North Lanarkshire Council vote proposing on proposals a ban on sky lanterns and helium balloons.

The Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee will vote on 1 May on proposals “to prohibit the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from all council land and premises and from council licensed events”.

If passed North Lanarkshire will become the latest council to support Animal Concern’s campaign to ban the release of sky lanterns and helium balloons in Scotland and across the UK.

Animal welfare groups, including Animal Concern have long argued for restrictions on the release of lanterns and balloons. They are joined by a diverse range of organisations not limited to the Fire and Rescue Service, the National Farmers Union, Keep Scotland Beautiful, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Marine Conservation Society, and MPs and MSPs of all political parties.

Ahead of the vote Animal Concern spokesperson Graeme Corbett said: “We are delighted after some months of discussion that this important step forward is now coming to a vote.”

“We are strongly urging councillors to take this opportunity to show animal life matters and to vote to protect North Lanarkshire’s - and it’s neighbours - natural and built environment.”

“Sky lanterns and helium balloons are a risk to both and passing these proposals would be voting to protect animal welfare. We are cautiously optimistic.”

“If, as we hope, another local authority in Scotland recognises the risks sky lanterns and helium balloons pose, and the closer we get to our aspiration of 32 out of 32 local authorities in Scotland, pressure is bound to build on the Scottish and UK governments to act.”

“More and more local authorities are using the powers they have to do what they can. We’re approaching the point where Holyrood and Westminster must recognise their responsibility. Local governments like North Lanarkshire across the UK have shown leadership. It’s time parliamentarians did the same.”

Vice Convenor of the Environment and Climate Change Committee Councillor James McPhilemy (Scottish Labour, Cumbernauld South) said:

“We are pleased to support Animal Concern’s campaign. We share their view that releasing sky lanterns and helium balloons is a risk not worth taking to protect wildlife, household pets, and farmed animals.”

“As councillors we have a duty to do what we can to safeguard animal welfare insofar as we can and to tackle avoidable fire hazards. These measures go some way to achieving that.”

“We are saying to the people of North Lanarkshire and beyond to consider the consequences of releasing lanterns and balloons once the initial spectacle disappears over the horizon. What goes up must come down and these are both a real hazard when they do”.

The dangers associated with sky lanterns and helium balloons are ingestion and as a fire hazard in the case of lanterns.

Animals will attempt to eat grounded lanterns or helium balloons. This carries the risk of becoming lodged in the oesophagus causing death by asphyxiation.

Sky lanterns are made from a bamboo frame and wire. Should they be damaged on landing if ingested can perforate flesh or internal organs leading to organ failure or internal bleeding. Both are likely to be fatal if untreated.

Releasing a sky lantern or lanterns is releasing a naked flame. In the event the flame is not fully extinguished represents a fire hazard wherever they land. This risk is heightened during the drier summer months.

An additional risk is entanglement in a lantern’s wire frame. In addition to death caused by dehydration and starvation, an entangled animal is at risk of predation similar to the risks associated with snares (recently banned by the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Act).

Both lanterns and helium balloons are uncontrollable. Their final landing place is contingent on wind speed, direction, and fuel source. This is a risk in and of itself as well as delayed littering.

Whilst sky lantern and helium balloons undoubtedly provide an attractive visual spectacle, their dangers outweigh their benefits.



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