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Aftermath of November fireworks season triggers increased animal welfare warnings

The aftermath of fireworks during several commemorations this month, including Halloween, Bonfire Night, and Diwali, confirms what the Countryside Alliance has been cautioning about for years: irresponsible fireworks displays pose a real danger to animals.

At the start of the month, Halloween celebrations caused a horse to die. Its owner, 18-year-old Liberty, said her horse was so spooked by nearby fireworks that her legs became paralysed, and the vet was left with no choice but to put her down. 

Bonfire Night resulted in the death of numerous animals. In one incident, a pregnant horse died of a heart attack caused by an unexpected fireworks display in a neighbouring field. In another, a dog was killed after being hit by a car while running away from fireworks. Even two monkeys died of fright thanks to fireworks let off next to an animal sanctuary, as well as a pet bird, which dropped dead seconds after hearing a noisy firework go off outside her home.

Redwings Horse Sanctuary went so far as to film and release a video showing their distressed horses running around frantically whilst fireworks were set off near the centre. Their visible flight response illustrates our previous warnings in the lead-up to November’s fireworks season.

Fireworks during Bonfire Night and Diwali posed harm in multiple ways. In one case, a horse had a miscarriage after being frightened during a fireworks display – despite its owner taking many precautions prior to and during the show. Furthermore, many pets ran off after being startled by fireworks. Some of them have been since located, whilst others are still missing. This coincides with a recent study, which reveals that throughout the week of Bonfire Night and Diwali, there is an alarming 120% increase in the number of dogs that go missing.

The examples of harm are, of course, not only limited to the UK. During a World Cup Cricket match in India this month, a police horse died of a heart attack. The horse went into traumatic shock after the sudden bursting of 150 aerial firecrackers, and proceeded to flee and hit some vehicles.

Fortunately, many groups decided to change traditional fireworks shows to animal-friendly alternatives this year. Numerous local councils and charities, including Hexham Council in Northumberland and Old Down Country Park in Bristol, utilised low-noise and silent fireworks with animal welfare in mind. Other organisations, such as Arts Council England, opted for light shows rather than fireworks.

New data suggests that 78% of the British public want fireworks banned entirely – 38% saying so due to fireworks scaring pets. It is high time that the government takes these concerns seriously, starting by explicitly including the protection of animals from the effects of fireworks in the Animal Welfare Act.

Sabina Roberts, External Affairs Officer at the Countryside Alliance, said:

“The Countryside Alliance will continue to advocate for rural communities on this pressing issue. We should not have to witness any more animals being senselessly killed or injured because of irresponsible fireworks displays, particularly when simple measures can be taken to minimise harm.”

As laid out in our previous guidance, we call for fireworks organisers to 1). clearly advertise events to local communities and farms well in advance so they can prepare to settle their animals; 2). direct displays away from known fields or buildings with livestock in them; and 3). consider using low noise fireworks which create a visual effect but are quieter. We suggest that members of the public consider attending organised events rather than creating their own displays, particularly if presiding in an area with known farms and livestock.

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