With Bonfire Night and Diwali celebrations having just passed, and New Year’s Eve already being prepared for, firework sales are ‘rocket’-ing. Every year, a debate seems to arise on the safety of our favourite holiday explosives, their effects on our pets, and regulations on their sale. This October, a particularly interesting petition has been started on whether fireworks should be completely banned from being sold to the public, and only used at organised displays. The petition has over 100,000 signatures, meaning it has the potential to be debated in parliament. But what are the arguments on both sides of the debate?

The most obvious criticism of fireworks is their safety. Every Autumn a story will appear in the news of a tragic accident involving these stunning, yet deadly, contraptions. The majority of these accidents take place at private displays – members of the public using their own purchased fireworks. Many of these private displays are held in a highly irresponsibly manner, often with young people finding it amusing to set off fireworks faultily. However, even when more responsible members of the public want to set off their own rockets, accidents can, and do, still happen. Supporters of regulative measures argue that in banning their sale to the general public, fireworks would only be used at official displays and, optimally, overseen by someone trained in handling fireworks.

It is hard to deny that this would reduce the amount of accidents at celebrative times of the year, yet still many oppose such measures. Some would claim of being unable to attend a display every year, particularly in rural areas of the country. Others say that a ban is unnecessary on those who use the explosives responsibly. They may argue that rather than a blanket ban on their sale, stronger regulations should be introduced – record checks, for example.

Another recurring complaint about fireworks is their negative effect on the nation’s beloved pets. Many of our cats and dogs are terrified of the loud bangs commonplace on Bonfire Night and other celebrations, with cases of animals physically injuring themselves in their panic. Animal-rights activists and pet lovers unite in calling for action, whether in asking for more information on what to do to keep their pets safe, or for more extreme measures, with even some calling for firework companies to redesign their products to cause less noise.

It is debatable how much a ban on public sale would lower the distress of animals due to fireworks, as many would still be affected by the often-large displays held by local councils. However, it could be a step forward in increasing the enjoyment our pets have on celebration nights.

The debate will likely continue year on year, with perhaps no major change ever taking place. Whether this is due to the safety of our friends and families, as well as our pets, being less important than the profits incurred from firework sales, is controversial.

Is a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public the best way forward? Or is a less (or perhaps, more) extreme action needed?

Ben Hatchett

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