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  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    THE BIG DEBATE: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED

    THE DILEMMA

    Toffee apples are a popular treat during Bonfire Night

    It has been a tradition for centuries. Every 5 November, people in Britain light bonfires, let off fireworks, burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and munch on hot dogs and toffee apples. Bonfire Night, also known as Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes Night, is a very popular event in the UK, with huge organised displays and small parties at home entertaining young and old alike.

    So it’s a popular British tradition, but is it a good thing? Many household pets, including dogs and cats, are terrified of firework explosions. It causes trauma and can upset the animals for days. Fireworks bought by members of the public can be used as weapons. Bonfires are bad for the environment, and accidents can and do happen. This year, 14 people, including children, were injured at one firework display in Wiltshire alone.

    Is it time to ban the bonfires, or is it an important British tradition that we should continue to celebrate?

    GLOSSARY EFFIGY – a model or dummy of a person that is made to be damaged or destroyed

  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    THE HISTORY OF BONFIRE NIGHT

    Why do we remember, remember the fifth of November with fireworks and bonfires? The tradition dates back to 5 November 1605; the day that the Gunpowder Plot was uncovered and stopped. The plot aimed to kill King James I of England by blowing up the House of Lords in London when he was visiting. This, the plotters hoped, would be the beginning of an uprising that would lead to James’ nine-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, becoming the Queen.

    The plotters were a group of English Catholics who were very unhappy with the anti-Catholic policies of the Government. Out of the 12 plotters, Guy Fawkes was selected to be in charge of the explosives.

    An anonymous letter revealed the plans of the Gunpowder Plot. On 5 November 1605, authorities discovered Fawkes with 36 barrels of gunpowder in a storage room under the House of Lords.

    To celebrate the plot being uncovered in the nick of time, people lit bonfires across London. Parliament then passed something called the Observance of 5th November Act 1605, which called on the public to celebrate an annual thanksgiving for the failure of the plot.

    Over the next few hundred years, the tradition to mark the day with bonfires – and the burning of homemade dummies representing Guy Fawkes – became very popular. In the 20th century, fireworks became a big part of the entertainment, and large, organised public events increased in popularity.

    A drawing of Guy Fawkes with

    his barrels of gunpowder

    King James

    A dog helps children push a Guy Fawkes dummy in the 1930s

    Children watch an effigy of Guy Fawkes burning on a bonfire

  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    20 million people in the UK attend either a private or public firework display over the November period, according to the British Pyrotechnists Association.

    In a 2013 opinion poll, 67% of adults said that fireworks “should only be let off at properly organised displays.”

    168,160 people signed a petition in 2016 calling on a ban of the sale of fireworks to the public.

    Around £40 million is spent on fireworks in the UK in an average year.

    FACTS & FIGURES

    British law says that fireworks cannot be set off between 11am–7pm, apart from on Bonfire Night (when the cut-off is midnight) and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year (when the cut off is 1am).

    Children with fireworks in 1930. It is now illegal for under-18s to buy or possess fireworks in public places.

    67%

    4,506 people visited Accident and Emergency (A&E) in 2014-15 for treatment of an injury caused by fireworks.

    There was an 111% increase in the number of people treated in hospital for firework injuries in 2014-15 compared with five years earlier.

    You can be fined up to

    and imprisoned for up to 6 months

    for selling or using fireworks illegally.

    £5,000

  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    DID YOU KNOW? In the UK, adults can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on these dates:

    • 15 October to 10 November (for Bonfire Night) • 26 to 31 December (for New Year’s Eve) • 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

    Diwali celebrations

    Diwali – The five- day festival of lights is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains worldwide. The triumph of light over darkness and good over evil is celebrated with candles, colourful lights and massive firework displays.

    Chinese New Year – This marks the start of the lunar new year, which is when there is the start of a new moon. It is different to the Gregorian calendar that we use in the UK, which always starts on 1 January. The Chinese New Year date varies according to the moon’s patterns, but it falls between 21 January and 20 February.

    Chinese New Year celebrations At a 2016 Bonfire Night event, an effigy of Guy Fawkes was replaced with one

    of President Donald Trump holding the head of Hillary Clinton

  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    FIREWORKS & BONFIRES: THE DRAWBACKS They produce spectacular, dazzling light displays, but fireworks come with some drawbacks too. These are the main reasons some people want fireworks and Bonfire Night displays banned:

    THEY CAN CAUSE ACCIDENTS Every year, hundreds of people end up in hospital with injuries caused by fireworks on Bonfire Night. Throughout the whole year, thousands of people are hurt by them. The injuries include burns, debris in the eye from bonfires and flying fireworks, and smoke inhalation (breathing in dangerous levels of smoke from a fire). Injuries tend to occur in private firework displays at home, rather than organised public events – but this year 14 people were hurt at a public display in Wiltshire when fireworks shot towards the crowd.

    THEY CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS Fireworks are effectively mini-explosives. You light the fuse and an explosion takes place that sets off the light spectacle. This means that some criminals use them as a weapon. Fireworks can injure people both by burning them and hitting them at speed.

    THEY SCARE PETS

    As the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) says, “fireworks can be a source of fear for many animals”. Blue Cross, the animal welfare charity, says that every year “thousands of pets will suffer”, and that their animal hospitals “see a marked rise in pets requiring medication during such stressful times, and many pets are brought into Blue Cross rehoming centres having run away from home”. Many animals have very sharp hearing, and the loud bangs and whistles caused by fireworks may cause them actual pain in their ears as well as make them stressed and anxious. Even deaf animals can be traumatised by fireworks, because they feel the vibrations from the explosions in the air.

    BONFIRES ARE BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Even a small bonfire can become a cosy home for animals and insects, including hedgehogs, beetles and frogs. Many creatures burn to death when bonfires are lit if people do not check properly for wildlife beforehand. There’s also the problem of pollution from bonfires. Carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas), dioxins (toxic molecules) and particles are released into the atmosphere by bonfires, contributing to air pollution, which is a big problem in the UK and around the world.

    IT ISN’T APPROPRIATE

    If Guy Fawkes and his fellow plotters tried to blow Parliament up today, they’d be called terrorists. What they attempted in 1605 was an act of terrorism that might have killed dozens of people – including the King. At a time when Britain and other countries face the possibility of terrorist attacks, is it appropriate to celebrate the failed Gunpowder Plot every year by shooting fireworks into the sky?

    Moreover, in some Bonfire Night celebrations, effigies of people that are currently living are burned as part of the tradition. For example, at the famous Lewes Bonfire Night in Sussex, the likenesses of political figures are often set alight. Is this appropriate behaviour?

  • DILEMMA: SHOULD BONFIRE NIGHT BE BANNED? Friday 10 November 2017

    The Big Debate

    FIREWORKS & BONFIRES: THE POSITIVES THEY’RE FUN!

    Bonfire Night is a whole lot of fun. It livens up the dark, cold autumn with a bright, colourful display of dazzling lights and a roaring bonfire. The public displays bring people together from all corners of the local community, while private parties are a great chance to catch up with friends and family. Banning Bonfire Night means banning fun!

    WE CAN’T BAN EVERYTHING THAT MAY BE HARMFUL Of course fireworks and bonfires can cause injuries, but so can lots of things, such as cars, kitchen knives and air travel. Far more people and animals are hurt by cars each year than by fireworks and bonfires. We do need sensible rules, such as fireworks only being sold to over-18s and information about how to keep safe, but we don’t need a complete ban.

    THE POLLUTION RIS