We must adapt our use of fireworks to be more considerate to our surrounding environment, argues Comment Editor Natalia Carter

Written by Natalia Carter
Comment Editor 2018-19 | English Student
Images by Eric Kilby

Now that Bonfire Night is over, and I am no longer at risk of being a ‘spoil sport’ on everyone’s festivities (which, by the way, should be more than over by now), it’s time to talk about fireworks.

Fireworks are a great source of festivity and fun, they make a wonderful display and can be used to celebrate near enough any occasion. It’s not surprising that so many people still use them for their Bonfire Night celebrations. However, whilst everyone is distracted by the brightly coloured displays in the sky, no one is looking at the ground around them. It appears that the world forgets about the wildlife around them.

The world forgets about the wildlife around them

Research has shown that both wild animals and domestic animals are seriously affected by fireworks. The loud obnoxious bangs created by the explosives can generate a severe amount of anxiety in wild animals, often causing them to flee away from their habitats and into roads – resulting in a huge increase of dead animals. It has also been documented that many small mammals and birds will abandon their young as a result of the noise, often becoming so disorientated that they struggle to find their way back. The young are left to defend for themselves, frequently resulting in their premature deaths. If the thought of injured animals doesn’t move you, then maybe consider what would happen if a panicked deer were to run across the road, putting both your lives at risk and possibly damaging your car if you were to hit it.

Furthermore, any pet owner will tell you that fireworks are exceptionally worrisome to domestic animals. Blue Cross has stated that when Bonfire Night comes around, ‘Blue Cross animal hospitals across the country see a marked rise in pets requiring medication during stressful times, and many pets are brought into Blue Cross re-homing centres having run away from home’. The charity even lists multiple ways to care for and relax your pets when the fireworks begin since it is estimated that 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. I cannot be the only one who witnessed the countless videos circulating social media of multiple helpless domestic animals, frightened and unaware of what was happening around them.

45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks

It’s not just fireworks. Bonfires are also a major risk to wildlife, specifically hedgehogs. As the weather gets cold and damp, hedgehogs often look for new hibernation sites – such as giant piles of leaves and branches that create the perfect shelter. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society urged people to check the area surrounding the bonfire, especially if the bonfire was built in advance. Often hedgehogs find bonfire sites and shelter there, resulting in unimaginable suffering when the pile is set alight without being checked for living animals. They also highlight that going to an officially organised fireworks display is by far the safer option for all involved, humans and animals alike.

This raises an important question. Should we be asking for greater restrictions on fireworks? I have to say that the answer to this is painfully obvious. Yes, we should.

Even if we ignore the wildlife aspect, whilst fireworks are great fun for all the family when lit in a controlled and safe environment, it only takes a few hooligans to ruin the celebrations for everyone. Sadly, many people find fireworks an exciting way to torment people. This year alone we have seen a man looking at a potential leg amputation after a group of individuals dropped a lit firework into his pocket, as well as two people injured in Selly Oak after fireworks were thrown into Kimchi restaurant. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) have called on the Government ‘to introduce graphic warnings on all firework packaging, as the number of patients attending A&E due to related injuries has more than doubled in recent years’. Last year in England alone, 4436 individuals attended A&E because of an injury caused by a firework. It seems that people are forgetting that they are handling explosives.

The number of patients attending A&E due to related injuries has more than doubled in recent years

So, if we were to limit the sale of fireworks, so that they can only be sold for large displays, I believe that we would greatly reduce the number of injuries, as well as related crime. Whilst this might sound like I’m the biggest party pooper in the world, I genuinely believe that this would be for the benefit of all involved. Not only does it keep all individuals at a safe distance and limited from stupid firework stunts in which they light a rocket in their bare hands and then complain about the heat, but it is safer for all animals involved. Bonfires will be built and checked, and generally fireworks for large displays are in large open spaces, equipped with a team of people to clean up the polluting rubbish steeped in chemicals that effect our environment. But how do we limit the wildlife disrupting noise?

Whilst this may be shocking to some, silent fireworks do in fact exist. In fact, in 2015 Collecchio (a town in Italy) passed a law that all fireworks displays must be quiet. So, why can’t we all follow suit? If we were to eradicate loud disrupting fireworks, opting for the silent displays instead, we would have a lesser effect on everything around us – children, the elderly, pets, and wildlife alike. I can’t think of any reason why silent fireworks should not be adopted since the pros massively outweigh the cons.

The number of patients attending A&E due to related injuries has more than doubled in recent years

to the world around us. It’s either time to ask for fairer fireworks, as the RSPCA is currently campaigning for, or it’s time to consider why we celebrate a foiled plot to kill the King. Maybe it’s time to focus on the effects Bonfire Night has on today, rather than memorialising the past.