Farmers’ leaders renew warnings over Chinese lanterns as Year of the Dragon begins today

FARMERS’ leaders are hoping the public will think twice about letting off Chinese lanterns over the next few days as celebrations for the Year of the Dragon begin.

As Chinese New Year celebrations get under way this week, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is warning of the dangers they pose to livestock and the fire risks that come with releasing them into the environment.

NFU rural surveyor Louise Staples said: “Our members know how these lanterns can harm or kill farm animals and they can also cause fires to thatch roofs and bales of hay and straw.

“We hope everyone has a wonderful Chinese New Year, which is always one of the most colourful celebrations in the calendar, but we would urge people to think twice about setting lanterns off.”

The NFU has been calling for an outright ban on the lanterns, which are already outlawed in parts of Germany, the whole of Vietnam and, as of last week, Spain.

The Marine Conservation Society has become the latest organisation to join a growing list of those worried about the dangers, including police, the fire service and coastguard.

Emma Snowden, Marine Conservation Society litter campaigns officer, said: “They are contributing to the litter issue and pose a threat to our beautiful marine wildlife, we are confident that the public would back a ban if they were fully aware of the serious damage lanterns could do.

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“When we reported the recent Spanish ban on our Facebook page we were amazed at the strength of feeling out there, all of which backed a ban of both balloon and lantern releases.”