SCOTLAND'S public are being asked to think about the impact on their agricultural neighbours before setting off sky lanterns and fireworks.

As bonfire night approaches, the National Farmers Union Scotland is urging people to consider farmers, crofters and in particular their livestock, before setting stuff on fire and releasing it to fall wherever the wind takes it.

Sky lanterns are constructed from paper with a wire or wooden frame and contain a lighted candle, which provides the hot air that lifts them up. Unfortunately, that candle can still be lit when the lantern loses that lift and descends, making them a proven fire risk and a danger to animals and farm buildings.

Farm buildings housing hay and straw, or other flammable products, are particularly vulnerable to serious damage and loss to the farm business as a result of a lit lantern drifting in. With straw and hay at such a premium this year, any incident like that could cause significant financial hardship for farmers and crofters.

Whether still burning or not, if sky lanterns fall on farm land they can also have devastating effects when wire frame material gets mixed up into feed, such as silage or grain, and ingested by livestock, with fatal results.

Considering that dual threat, it has long been NFU Scotland’s stance that these devices should not be available to the public to release. Several local authorities have already responded with local bans on their release from public ground, but many more have yet to acknowledge the problem, and in either case, enforcement is an issue during the emergency services' busy bonfire night.

The union is also asking those planning to set off fireworks to think about where they will be in relation to livestock, as the loud explosions can be extremely distressing for cows, sheep, horses and poultry, causing animals to become agitated, and either injure themselves on fencing, farm equipment or fixtures within their housing, or get loose and possibly injure themselves and others. 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.

In a survey carried out by the British Veterinary Association last December, around 1 in 14 vets across the UK reported seeing animals with firework-related injuries over 2018.

NFUS 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. 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," said Ms Middleton.

“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.”

She suggested that anyone planning a fireworks display on the urban fringe bordering farmland might at least take simple measures to warn animal keepers of that plan so measures can be taken in advance to protect livestock welfare.