Rural organisation welcomes the grounding of NHS sky lantern campaign

The cancellation of a campaign to release sky lanterns in support of the NHS has been welcomed by a leading rural organisation.

A company has abandoned a campaign to donate sales from sky lanterns to the NHS.

Night Sky Lanterns was selling Union Jack lanterns at £6, with a donation of £5 going to the NHS, and encouraging their release on Sunday nights during the Covid-19 lockdown.

CLA northern director, Dorothy Fairburn, said it was good the company “had seen sense” and decided to end the campaign.

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Concerns had been raised about the campaign and its potential impact on livestock, the environment and the risk of fire, not just by the CLA but other organisations including the NFU and RSPCA, as well as the National Fire Chiefs Council and Defra.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “We all want to do our bit to show our appreciation for the NHS and front-line workers but please stay safe and consider one of the many other ways of showing support.

“Sky lanterns pose a danger to our precious environment and wildlife and can place a greater strain on our front-line services and key workers at this challenging time.”

Mrs Fairburn said the CLA had reacted quickly to the “misguided sentiment” of releasing the lanterns and had contacted all rural MPs, asking them to raise awareness of the dangers they posed.

“Releasing a naked flame, with absolutely no control over where it will land, is a serious threat to rural businesses, livestock, wildlife and the environment. There is simply no responsible way of using them.

“It is good the company has seen sense and decided to end the campaign, especially as there are much better ways to show support and appreciation for the invaluable work of the NHS.”

The CLA, NFU and RSPCA all have long-running campaigns highlighting the dangers posed by sky lanterns.

In a statement about the now-cancelled campaign, the NFU reiterated its call for an outright ban on their release.

“Although this initiative may be well intentioned and aims to raise money for the NHS, sky lanterns pose a serious fire risk and a danger to animals who may ingest the debris,” the statement said.

“The NFU has campaigned against their use as we have heard from dozens of farmers over many years about the gruesome injuries sky lanterns have caused to their livestock and other animals, as well as devastating fire damage on farms to hay, straw and farm buildings.”

The organisation said since the news of the NHS campaign was put on social media, 4,900 people had completed the e-action on its website. However, as some councils already have bans in place, so would not receive an email urging them to introduce one, a total of 3,300 emails had been sent out to local authorities.

Mrs Fairburn echoed the calls for a complete ban.

“We have been calling for a number of years for sky lanterns to be banned on safety and environmental grounds and this now needs to be actioned more than ever,” she said.

But Fabio Paduanelli, the owner of Night Sky Lanterns, said the company had been working hard to address the concerns people had raised about the lanterns and thanked people for expressing their concerns and sentiments regarding them.

“Every criticism is crucial in order to improve our products and services, while respecting any one opinion,” he said.

“As I am the son of a farmer, I perfectly understand all concerns raised by farmers and wildlife organisations who would like to see an outright ban on sky lanterns.

“Because of this, in 2009 we engaged with our new-product development team to address those concerns and we announced premium-quality sky lanterns in particular to minimise the risk of fire in the eventuality the lantern lands on crops or dry hay and safeguarding livestock and wildlife.”

However, Mr Paduanelli said while they were developing the improved components a number of companies took the opportunity to flood the market with poorly-made sky lanterns, which, he said caused huge damage to the reputation of the whole industry.

“We strongly believe we are doing everything possible to inform the public and we would like to see wildlife organisations, NFCC and other farming organisations recognise those innovations, which are key to any industry.

“Generalising does not help people to understand those essential differences and it is creating a surge of confusion, which tends to persuade people to believe all sky lanterns are the same, basing their purchasing choice on price rather than quality.

“Our premium-quality sky lanterns take care of all concerns associated with sky lanterns.”