LONDON – Sky lanterns are impressive at various nighttime celebrations, but they are causing problems in the countryside, warned UK Agriculture Minister Jim Paice who urged people to consider other means of celebrating.

Sky lanterns are airborne paper lanterns constructed from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame and contain a small candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy, flammable material. After being lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, causing the lantern to rise into the air. The sky lantern is only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground.

But after floating for many miles and falling to Earth, the burnt-out remnants can hurt livestock and litter fields. Farmers have reported that sheep, cattle and horses are being injured, and in some cases dying, from eating the metal wire frames, which pierce their internal organs. They also report they are being forced to scour fields to pick up the litter.

Releasing sky lanterns has become increasingly popular at festivals, weddings and other celebrations across the UK. Paice asked the British Hospitality Association to advise its various members of the problems and to ask that they discourage customers from using the lanterns.

“Anyone who’s seen sky lanterns at night knows how spectacular they are, but they probably don’t know how they can cut a cow’s insides to ribbons and be devastating to the countryside. I don’t want to stop people’s enjoyment but I urge everyone to think twice about the impact of a sky lantern after it leaves their hands, and to find another way to celebrate.”