This time 10 years ago, I was getting really excited – despite being poorly – about travelling to Lewes, which is widely regarded as one of the best places in the country to celebrate Bonfire Night. I loved fireworks and I made the annual pilgrimage to Sussex for several years during my twenties, and considered it well worth the effort.
Friends from that time in my life would probably be surprised at my turnaround, but this year I warmly welcomed the news that Sainsbury’s decided not to sell fireworks to its customers, while Aldi, Asda and Morrisons have offered customers low-noise fireworks in the run up to Guy Fawkes Night.
The thing is, I grew up a bit and became less of a selfish jerk. I realised how much fireworks affected animals, young children and the elderly, and people with phobias or PTSD. I became a dog owner and saw first-hand how fireworks in neighbours’ gardens can terrify pets, even if you take all the steps you can to calm them, including distracting them with the television, giving them tablets or dressing them in a ‘Thundershirt’.
Around 40-45 percent of dogs are fearful of loud noises such as fireworks. I was angered by the many comments I read online by people who suggested that owners need to ‘train their dogs better so they are not afraid’. If only it was as simple as that!
People who don’t have pets of their own are likely to have seen footage on the news or on social media of animals trembling with fear and I don’t understand how people who see this and still refuse to adapt their behaviour can be so heartless. [Chris Raymont: “People shouldn’t stop celebrating a tradition all because it upsets a few animals and kids.” Helen Ellesse Jayne Head: “You having a dog shouldn’t ruin it for everyone else.”]
Animals can suffer psychologically, as they don’t understand what’s causing the loud bangs and bright flashes, and physically as many attempt to run away from or hide from them. This week it was revealed that a puppy died of a heart attack after being frightened by fireworks – all for the sake of humans’ amusement.
It’s even scarier for the farm animals and wildlife who don’t have any source of comfort. The keyboard warriors have argued it’s just like natural thunder, but even if that’s the case, it’s still causing distress and it’s unnecessary. Have you seen the video of the baby barn owl who’s scared of the storm? Poor little thing. As if life for wildlife isn’t hard enough.
And it’s not just for one or two nights a year – I’ve had neighbours setting off fireworks any time from barely dark to well past bedtime (even after 11pm, when it’s against the law), any day from late October to early January.
Firework debris is strewn across the local parks because people don’t bother returning to clear up after themselves. At best, it’s littering; at worst, fireworks can cause environmental damage through fires and the release of poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke.
Sadly, many people just can’t be trusted to use these explosives safely and responsibly. In England last year, more than 4,400 people attended A&E because of an injury caused by a firework.
I think one day in the not too distant future, the use of fireworks will literally fizzle out, and we will enjoy less environmentally damaging, more socially responsible forms of entertainment using lights and technology.
In the meantime, fine, let’s have some fireworks. The online trolls calling the petition supporters ‘snowflakes’ and saying things like “wow let’s just suck all the fun out of our kids’ childhoods” and “how much more of a nanny state are we going to become?” are being totally melodramatic. We don’t have to stop them altogether (yet), just be more careful and considerate in their use. [Jon Boyd: “Yep, let’s ban fun, happiness, laughter, joy! How about banning miserable sods who don’t want anyone to ever enjoy themselves!”]
I support calls for fireworks to be used at organised, licensed displays only. This means they won’t be going off any/every night for weeks on end, and people can find out about them and take whatever action is appropriate for their household to minimise any negative impacts. It’s a compromise to keep everybody relatively happy.