Lantern ban for farm weddings
A FARMER who runs a popular wedding venue has banned the latest wedding party craze to protect his livestock.
Mick Heath has banned sky lanterns, the latest 'must have' gimmick for weddings, because they are not suitable for the countryside.
PARTY CRAZE: Margaret Heath has banned the use of sky lanterns from weddings held at her farm. Picture: Mark Scott
The hot air lanterns, made from tissue paper, bamboo and wire, can rise to 1,000 feet once lit, remain alight for more than five minutes and travel up to two miles.
Once the wick has burnt out, the hot air inside the lantern gradually cools down and the unlit frame falls to the ground.
But Mr Heath, who runs Heaton House Farm, at Rushton Spencer, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, does not allow the lanterns despite some wedding couples regarding them as harmless fun.
He said: "Brides and grooms ask if they can let them off, but they do not understand that the wire in them takes ages to break down. If it gets wrapped up in hay bales it would be like swallowing razor blades for farm animals and if it falls into grassland it will kill wildlife.
"These lanterns are advertised very heavily in bridal magazines. Brides and grooms can see the attraction, but not the danger.
"The lanterns are being imported by the million in boxes of 50.
"A box of 50 could result in 50 dead animals.
"One of our cows bled to death internally after eating shards of a discarded drink can.
" I want to do all I can to avoid any animal suffering like that again."
Mr Heath, who has also outlawed fireworks at the venue, introduced the ban after one couple persuaded him that the lanterns were 100 per cent bio-degradable.
But he was horrified when three of them came down in a neighbouring farmer's field where livestock was grazing.
Mr Heath, aged 48, has won the support of the Country Landowners Association (CLA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).
CLA West Midlands adviser, Donna Tavernor, said: "Sky lanterns are advertised as 100 per cent bio-degradable but obviously the metal wire which suspends the burner will not degrade instantly.
"Cattle, ponies, horses and deer are particularly at risk and will die a lingering death if the wire gets into their system."
West Midlands NFU spokesman Oliver Cartwright added: "The NFU does not want to dampen anyone's celebration or event, but we would call for people to use their common sense and use sky lanterns sensibly.
"Manufacturers have strict health and safety guidelines and we would urge people to follow these and not release the lanterns near buildings or dry fields full of standing crops."
Mr Heath has run the wedding venue with wife Margaret for the past 10 years, and is the sixth generation of his family to work the farm.
They host two weddings most weekends.
Wife Margaret said: "These are supposed to be the environmentally-friendly version of balloons, but they are not. They are very dangerous.
"They will end up getting into winter feed and could kill animals.
"There is also the danger that if they come down alight they could start a fire on the moorlands, a fire in a tinder-dry cornfield or even someone's house.
"We really do not know where they are going to come down."