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Animal rights group steps up campaign against fireworks

12:19 31/12/2019
From Flanders Today

As Belgium prepares to see in the New Year with a bang, animal rights group Gaia is stepping up its campaign against fireworks. It is encouraging the public to report examples of the distress animals experience because of firework displays, and to lobby their local authorities to adopt alternatives.

With their sensitive hearing, animals are easily startled by the sudden loud noises made by fireworks. If they are indoors, they can become distressed as they try to escape from the flashes of light and the explosions. If they are outside, they can run away, getting injured or lost in the process.

"Every year we receive a lot of complaints from people who see their pets and other animals suffer absolute terror," said Ann De Greef, director of Gaia. "So we invite everyone to write to their city or municipality to ask them to choose low-noise fireworks, or no fireworks at all."

In April this year the Flemish government prohibited the use of fireworks without local authority approval. So Gaia has set up a website that helps people press local authorities to exercise their new power. It has also established an email account to receive reports of the distress caused by fireworks.

“When people send an email to their mayor or local councillor responsible for animal welfare, they help us convince them to opt for an alternative that has more respect for animals," De Greef explained. "Low-noise fireworks, for example in combination with a light show, are just as spectacular, no more expensive and show greater respect for animals."

Where traditional fireworks can reach a volume of up to 170 decibels, low-noise fireworks typically stay below 85 decibels. Some municipalities have already made it a policy to use them, including Zelzate, Hooglede, Kalmthout, Essen, Bruges, Wuustwezel, Stekene and Kruibeke.

Bruges is taking a particularly innovative approach this year, with a light show above 't Zand provided by a squadron of computer-controlled drones. "We have chosen not to have noisy fireworks that startle animals," said Dirk De fauw, the city's mayor. "This alternative is also less harmful to the environment. But we won't have any less of a party!"

Photo: New Year's Eve 2018 in Brussels
© Belga/
James Arthur Gekiere

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)