How Much Will We Make Animals Suffer Before We Ban Bonfire Night?

Do you consider yourself a kind person? If so, how can you support firework displays? The price of those bangs and flashes is just too high, author Chas Newkey-Burden writes.
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Too many things are banned. Let’s get that out the way first. We get a lot of nannying these days and many of us feel it’s too much.

Even so, we all accept some rules in our lives and fireworks are the latest culture war that’s dividing Britain. Banning fireworks might seem an extreme idea at first, but once you understand the terror they inflict on animals, there are only two ways you can go.

Many already know that dogs and cats are scared of fireworks. A poll found that 62 per cent of dogs show signs of distress during fireworks.

On Bonfire Night last year, a dog in Manchester died of a heart attack while trying to burrow under decking to get away from the loud bangs.

People also know that hedgehogs sometimes nest in bonfires before they are lit and end up being burned alive. But that’s just the beginning of the impact fireworks have on our animal cousins.

In 2017, a horse was so terrified by the sound of a firework display that he twisted his gut and galloped round a field in sheer panic before dying. His death was long and torturous: vets said he suffered alone for 14 hours before he died.

In another shocking incident, a two-year old horse was found dead, tangled in wire, after he attempted to flee from the noise of the fireworks that was terrifying him. Marks all over his field showed he, too, had sprinted around in panic for some time before his horrific death.

In Lincolnshire, a horse was so scared by a nearby display she jumped out of her field and was hit by a car on the A57. A four-month-old colt was put to sleep after he was driven “insane” with terror by a firework display.

Similar incidents have happened with other animals, including wild deer. Pregnant farm animals have miscarried because of firework noise. A bull died after he became impaled on a fence.

Birds are also killed by fireworks. They panic and fly too far out to sea, eventually collapsing into the waves. Others break their necks or wings when they fly into buildings in the darkness after becoming terrified by the loud booms and sudden flashes of light.

As soon as those deafening explosions begin, many squirrels abandon their nests and end up so confused they can’t find their way back to their babies.

Debris from fireworks often lands in rivers and lakes. This means fish, ducks and swans ingest toxic matter and are slowly, painfully poisoned to death. Others become entangled in the debris.

During November, animal sanctuaries and shelters see a spike in arrivals of pets and other animals that have fled from their homes during firework displays. Vets say these animals’ ears are often damaged by the thunderous explosions of the pyrotechnics.

I’m not saying you have to immediately agree with a ban, but can you see it’s not really such an extreme idea after all? These strange explosions are disrupting the balance of nature, poisoning rivers and causing unnecessary suffering and death.

Until now, concern about this has been a niche issue. Even some of my fellow vegans have been a bit dismissive when I’ve raised it in the past. Does this really matter? Shouldn’t we focus on the 70 billion animals killed each year for meat?

I think the firework issue does matter though, and partly because it offers a microcosm into mankind’s shifty relationship with animals. Animals being put through enormous suffering and death just so humans can have a few moments of thrill. It’s a shame the animals must suffer, people say, but let’s not worry about it too much.

Yet as people learn the truth about firework displays, pressure is building. Some want regulation to be introduced, with fireworks only allowed briefly at certain times and in certain places. More than 750,000 people have signed a petition calling for a ban on shops selling fireworks. Many shops have responded positively: Sainsbury’s has announced it will not sell any this year.

Social media has played a part in changing attitudes. Pet owners are able to share photos and videos of their babies suffering visibly from trauma. Friends see this and it makes them think. Maybe skip the fireworks this time at least?

There’s a long way to go and we will see what happens in the days ahead when there will be countless firework displays, and countless terrified animals, across the country.

Shamefully, West Midlands Safari Park is hosting two nights of firework displays in its own grounds. You wouldn’t expect me as a vegan to have much time for a safari park anyway but this cruel festival leaves little doubt in my mind where their priorities lie.

But what are your priorities? Do you consider yourself a kind person and an animal lover? If so, how can you support firework displays, knowing the suffering they bring? The price of those bangs and flashes is just too high.

Chas Newkey-Burden is a writer and author.


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