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NFU's call for care on Guy Fawkes' night

By Tom Ramage

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Firework fans in the Highlands are being urged to consider their agricultural neighbours before setting off sky lanterns and fireworks.

Don't light up the sky, ask NFU
Don't light up the sky, ask NFU

As bonfire night approaches, NFU Scotland is asking for some care for farmers, crofters and their livestock, with Guy Fawkers avoiding using dangerous sky lanterns this year.

Sky lanterns are constructed from paper with a wire or wooden frame and contain a lighted candle, they are a proven fire risk and can be a danger to animals and farm buildings. It is NFU Scotland’s stance that these should not be available to the public as there is no way to guarantee them landing safely.

When sky lanterns fall on farm land they can have devastating effects on those farm businesses. The frame material can get mixed up into feed, such as silage or grain, and be accidently digested by livestock the effects of which can be fatal.

Lanterns are also a serious risk to farm buildings, which may house hay and straw, or other flammable products. Sky lanterns have been known to set fire to sheds, causing serious damage and loss to the farm business. With straw and hay at such a premium this year any incident like this could cause significant financial hardship for farmers and crofters.

The union is also asking those who are thinking of setting off fireworks, to think about where they will be setting them off in relation to livestock.

The loud noises from fireworks can be extremely distressing for cows, sheep, horses and poultry, and can lead to animals becoming agitated, getting loose from their fields or housing, and can often seriously injure themselves and others.

Around one in 14 vets across the UK reported seeing animals with firework-related injuries over 2018, in a survey carried out by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) last December.

Livestock who are startled by the loud noises from fireworks are at risk of injuring themselves on fencing, farm equipment or fixtures and fittings within their housing.

Poultry are also at risk as they can suffer from ‘smother’, where in a fear response birds huddle together, which can result in death for some.

NFU Scotland’s animal health and welfare policy manager Penny Middleton said: “Although lanterns and fireworks seem to be innocent fun, they can in fact be very dangerous both for farm animals and farm buildings.

Don't fan the flames, say NFU
Don't fan the flames, say NFU

“I would discourage people from incorporating sky lanterns into their displays this year and ask them to consider farmers and crofters, who could end up paying a heavy cost for their brief enjoyment.

“We applaud the action already taken against sky lanterns by those local authorities in Scotland who have imposed a ban and we urge other councils to take their responsibilities as seriously.

“We would also ask that you consider any neighbouring livestock and other animals when planning fireworks display, even taking simple measures to warn animal keepers of a planned display can allow them to take measures to protect their stock. Every year there are reports of pets and livestock being traumatised by fireworks going off too close to them in their homes and fields.

“Sainsbury’s have stopped selling fireworks altogether because they were unable to guarantee the safe and proper use of them, which is a move that the union fully supports.

“Bonfire night is a long standing and well-loved tradition in the UK and we do not want to spoil anyone’s fun. However, taking the time to consider the impact of any display will ensure that everyone can enjoy this tradition.”

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