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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Friday, 16 July 2010 11:15 UK
Call for ban on Chinese lanterns

By Chris Bennett
BBC Sussex

A Chinese lantern being lit
Chinese lanterns have ignited a debate in Sussex

A magical moment in a special family occasion?

The government have got to do something about this. The animals have got to come first.
Derek Lingham

Or an unthinking way of spreading dangerous litter from the sky?

Chinese lanterns may brighten a moment, but some in Sussex say the debris - and the fire risk - aren't worth it.

Farmer Derek Lingham is one man who wants the lanterns banned.

"If this wire gets round an animal's foot, especially a young calf, and it grows in, then you have got one hell of vet's bill." he said.

Mr Lingham who farms beef cattle near Fletching , said that the lanterns can threaten dogs and foxes and risk causing fires in arable crops.

"The government have got to do something about this. The farmers get blamed for a lot. We are not party poopers or anything like that. The animals have got to come first."

A 'super-trendy' hazard?

Alice Cragg, who runs the WoWo campsite near Sheffield Park in Sussex, said the lanterns have become "super-trendy" but that they are also a "real hazard" for animals.

She banned visitors from using the lanterns after the neighbouring farmer complained about the debris that they leave.

"Unless they can find something that is one hundred per cent biodegradable, I would call for a ban." said Ms Cragg.

Price drives popularity

Like the lanterns themselves, the popularity of chinese lanterns has soared over recent years.

Chinese lanterns
Chinese lanterns: good or bad?

Claire White, a wedding planner from Ditchling, said that the bride and groom ask for lanterns at more than than half of her weddings at big outdoor venues in the countryside.

"They are becoming very, very popular because they are visually quite exciting and they are not too expensive," she said.

She said those who set lanterns off must take responsibility for their potential effects.

"It's potentially quite hazardous and I don't think there are any government guidelines on the safe use of these products," she said.

Other incidents reported

Other incidents in Sussex have also highlighted problems with the lanterns.

A lantern being lit
The low cost of lanterns has made them more popular

In January the Coastguard said that a Chinese lantern had sparked a false alarm and subsequent coastal search .

Crews from Bexhill were called out to search for a vessel in distress after reports that a red distress flare had been fired at sea.

Crews were unable to locate anyone in distress and the coastguard said it believed a Chinese lantern was mistaken for the distress flare.

The RNLI has also said it has seen a large increase in the number of rescue teams and lifeboats being called out to false alarms, because decorative Chinese lanterns are being mistaken for distress flares.

Back in Ditchling, farmer Derek Lingham wants to know who foots the bill of any damage.

"If an animal is put down, who pays for it? We can't trace where these have come from. There's no name on them. Personally I would like to see them finished out completely," he said.

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