On Monday 2 November, MPs will debate a petition asking to ban fireworks for general sale to the public.
The petition, which gathered over 305,000 signatures, states, “Every year more and more people, animals and wildlife get hurt by fireworks. It’s time something was fine to stop this. There are enough organised firework groups around for us to still enjoy fireworks safely so please help me stop the needless sale of them to the public.”
In response to the petition, the Government said, “The Government recognises that many people have strong feelings about fireworks, and the potential negative impact they can have on a community, for example, by causing distress to individuals or animals.
“However, we believe that the majority of people who use fireworks do so appropriately and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them. We consider it a minority of people who use fireworks in a dangerous, inconsiderate or anti-social manner.”
The statement added, “The Government recognises the strength of feeling around the use and misuse of fireworks and has listened to the concerns raised in parliamentary debate and wider discussion. We receive representations from a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the public, organisations and charities, with wide-ranging views on what the issues are and what action they would like to see.”
In November last year, the House of Commons Petitions Committee released its report deeming the current fireworks law inadequate, and calling for measures to better protect animals – and people – from the stress caused by flashing lights and loud bangs.
Animal lovers have been campaigning for years for more stringent regulations, with several petitions and campaigns being launched. In 2019, the RSPCA launched its #BangOutOfOrder campaign calling for “tighter controls and regulations around the sale and use of fireworks in a bid to help people and animals who suffer with fireworks phobias and noise aversion”.
The campaign called for the restriction of the private use of fireworks to agreed traditional dates (November 5, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali); for the maximum permitted noise level of fireworks for public sale to be reduced to 90 decibels as opposed to 120 decibels; for all public fireworks displays should be licensed by the relevant licensing authority, and that “information about the proposed display must be provided in the local area several weeks in advance with a process for local residents to appeal against the granting of the licence”.
Pet owners are especially concerned this year as the cancellation of public displays due to the on-going pandemic may cause a raise in unregulated “backyard celebrations”, with bangs continuing throughout the day and night without warning. Every year, dogs spooked by a sudden bang will bolt off and become lost, causing heartbreak and distress to everyone involved.
In a survey conducted by the British Veterinary Association in 2018, around one in 14 vets across the country reported seeing animals with firework-related injuries over the previous year, with equine vets significantly more likely to report such cases (19 per cent). By far the most commonly reported cases were self-injuries caused by fireworks-related anxiety, such as fractures in horses that had bolted from their fields or tooth injuries to dogs from chewing furniture.
RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said: “We understand that people enjoy celebrating Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve and other key dates with fireworks and we don’t want to spoil the fun. Unfortunately, lockdown measures this year mean that very few organised, public displays are likely to go ahead and we suspect this means lots of families will be choosing to have their own displays at home.
“Due to the Rule of Six and the restrictions on households mixing, we fear that there will be lots of little displays taking place over weeks and weeks, spreading out fireworks noise and causing prolonged distress for animals.
“We’d urge people to be considerate and keep neighbours with animals, including those with nearby horses and other livestock, informed of plans well in advance so they can make preparations to reduce the stress to their animals.”
Tonia Antoniazzi MP (Gower), member of the Petitions Committee, will lead the debate, which will take place in in Westminster Hall at 16:30. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will send a Minister to respond. The debate can be watched live here.