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The inconsistency of New Year celebrations

Already these days, many people are preparing to celebrate the New Year and bid a solemn farewell to the ending one, which surely brought memories to all of us that we will keep for a long time.  But many of us are asking ourselves questions, and I am no exception, such as: how much are we able to suppress our egos in favor of the better psychological well-being of other living beings, and how much does this exuberant merriment even register with animals?

Where did fireworks come from?

Fireworks are nothing new in our society. The first references can be found in China as early as around 50 AD. [1] It is not until 900 AD that we can trace many similarities with the present concept, because deliberate production is already beginning to take place. The main reason why was that the sound produced when the fireworks were set off was to scare away living beings and thus the dark force, the so-called NIAM (the supernatural force that the Chinese used to defend all evil) [2], which was traditionally believed to be the origin of all evil. Gradually, therefore, there is a great development and use of fireworks. However, the current use of fireworks is very different from what was originally intended. 

A scientific view of the issue 

Today, fireworks and firecrackers are strongly opposed by conservation groups and other similar organizations. One of the biggest booms, when this issue started to resonate in society more than in previous years, was the sad event when a firecracker landed in the middle of a flock of swans during the Prague New Year fireworks in 2013. [3] Another tragic event that would be worth mentioning is the one in early 2021, when hundreds of feathered birds were left dead in the center of Rome after the New Year's fireworks. [4] We cannot just talk about the negative impact on domestic or farm animals, but we must not forget about wild animals either, as mentioned above. Here, however, we run into one problem, and that is that there is not a large number of relevant studies, yet I would like to highlight some hilarious ones below that deal with wildlife behavior during these spectacular celebrations. The Central Animal Welfare Commission, a body of the Ministry of Agriculture, in its opinion of late 2022, [5] has repeatedly strongly warned of the negative impacts associated with the setting off of fireworks and fireworks not only on farm and pet animals but also on wild ones. It also calls on municipalities to consider regulating the use of fireworks and fireworks by means of their general binding ordinances and on retailers to remove fireworks from their product range or at least to choose to sell fireworks with limited sound effects.  One of the exceptions in terms of the number and quality of studies on the impact of fireworks on wildlife is a study by a team of authors from the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, published in the journal Conservation Letters in 2022. [6] This study tracked 347 geese using GPS devices in several states during the 12 days before and 12 days after New Year's Eve for eight consecutive years, with each individual being tracked for an average of two years. Around the time of New Year's Eve, the geese began to leave their refuges up to that point and fly to locations that were several kilometers away from human habitation. In the following days they began to forage for and consume up to 10% more food due to the low intake and high expenditure of the previous days.

Legal anchoring

The use of fireworks is heavily restricted in many EU countries. In the Czech Republic, unfortunately, only partial restrictions have been achieved with the help of generally binding municipal ordinances. For example, the Prague City Council has not organized fireworks since 2020 and has set aside only a few zones for the use of fireworks, also with regard to animal protection. The end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 will be no exception. [7]

According to Law 206/2015 on pyrotechnic products, fireworks can only be used at certain times and places. Fireworks of categories F2 and F3, which are the loudest and most dangerous, can only be used from 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. on the nights of 31 December and 1 January, and only in places where they do not endanger the lives, health and property of people, nor do they endanger animals. Fireworks of category F1, which are less noisy and less dangerous, can be used all year round, but also with respect to the surroundings, but this is a very vague provision, as there are no precise rules for their use.

The law also stipulates that anyone using fireworks must ensure the safety of people and animals in the vicinity. This means following the instructions for using fireworks, keeping a sufficient distance from people and animals, not setting off fireworks near woods, fields, buildings and other combustible materials, not setting off fireworks under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not setting off fireworks in public spaces without permission from the competent authority. In particular, the point about not setting off fireworks under the influence of drugs and alcohol may look ridiculous to say the least, as alcohol is usually flowing on New Year's Eve.

If these rules are violated, the culprit can be fined up to CZK 10,000 or even prosecuted for bodily harm or damage to property. On the example of Prague and Brno, where these rules are laid down by the ordinance of the City of Prague and the City of Brno respectively, we can see the universality of this sanction. [8] [9]

Although celebrations are inherently joyful and full of energy, which is also true for New Year's Eve, we must not forget that not everyone enjoys it. The noise, the flashing colors all around and a certain chaos only makes some beings, human and animal alike, feel stressed or even anxious. It might be worth considering whether the coming of the New Year could not be celebrated in some other way, in a quieter and more peaceful way. I believe that there are many nice options that will allow us to bid farewell to the past year and welcome the coming one with dignity. The environment, people and animals will certainly welcome this, whether because of the safety risks or the high level of pollution that pyrotechnics create. 

Helping pets

We who have pets know that New Year's Eve is a time of stress for them, so we try to help them in any way we can. Of course, it depends what kind of pet we have, as the process of helping will be different for a small rodent or a large dog. In my experience, the most helpful and basic rule is to be near him during the noise, and preferably in a quiet place. We can also find advice that recommends various restraints for dogs and cats that should induce a sense of security and calm the animal. However, there is no one rule that will apply universally, as each animal is unique and will react individually.


Although many people like to end the year on a high note, it is important to remember that what may be a moment of amusement for some can be a stressful situation for others and unfortunately there can be situations with unhappy endings. The end of the year can be celebrated in a variety of ways and fireworks are therefore not a necessity, there are other alternatives to fun sparklers such as sparklers which not only do not disturb nature and animals but are a much safer alternative.

 
The inconsistency of New Year celebrations - Lenka Hanušová
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Suggested citation: Hanušová, Lenka, The inconsistency of New Year celebrations, CHR - Student Blog, 31/12/2023, https://www.chrprfcuni.com/post/the-inconsistency-of-new-year-celebrations

 

[2] Novoroční ohňostroj zabíjel labutě. Zkrvavené padaly mezi diváky. Online. Deník.cz. 2013. Available from: https://www.denik.cz/z_domova/pri-novorocnim-ohnostroji-v-praze-umiraly-labute-20130103.html. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[3] Hundreds of birds found dead in Rome's streets after New Year fireworks displays. Online. Euronews.com. Available from: https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/01/01/hundreds-of-birds-found-dead-in-rome-s-streets-after-new-year-fireworks-displays. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[4] ÚSTŘEDNÍ KOMISE PRO OCHRANU ZVÍŘAT. STANOVISKO ÚSTŘEDNÍ KOMISE PRO OCHRANU ZVÍŘAT K NEGATIVNÍMU VLIVU OHŇOSTROJŮ A ZÁBAVNÍ PYROTECHNIKY NA ZVÍŘATA. Available from: https://eagri.cz/public/web/file/715303/_2022Pyrotechnika.pdf#:~:text=Je%20t%C5%99eba%20zd%C5%AFraznit%2C%20%C5%BEe%20zv%C3%AD%C5%99ata%20vn%C3%ADmaj%C3%AD%20zvukov%C3%A9%20vjemy,kter%C3%A9%20%C4%8Dasto%20vedou%20k%20panice%20a%20%C3%BAnikov%C3%A9%20reakci [cit. 2023-12-28].

[5] Fireworks have long-lasting effects on wild birds. Online. Dostupné z: https://www.mpg.de/19528005/1121-ornr-fireworks-have-long-lasting-effects-on-wild-birds-987453-x. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[6] Praha nebude už počtvrté za sebou na Silvestra a Nový rok pořádat ani ohňostroj, ani videomapping. Online. Available from: https://www.novinky.cz/clanek/domaci-praha-nebude-na-silvestra-a-novy-rok-poradat-ohnostroj-nebo-videomapping-uz-poctvrte-za-sebou-40454445. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[7] Od prosince platí nová vyhláška k používání volně prodejných pyrotechnických výrobků. Zákaz platí i pro Silvestr a Nový rok. Online. Available from: https://www.praha.eu/jnp/cz/o_meste/magistrat/tiskovy_servis/tiskove_zpravy/od_prosince_plati_nova_vyhlaska_k.html. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[8]  Od prosince platí nová vyhláška k používání volně prodejných pyrotechnických výrobků. Zákaz platí i pro Silvestr a Nový rok. Online. Available from: https://www.praha.eu/jnp/cz/o_meste/magistrat/tiskovy_servis/tiskove_zpravy/od_prosince_plati_nova_vyhlaska_k.html. [cit. 2023-12-28].

[9]  Obecně závazná vyhláška č. 29/2020, o regulaci používání zábavní pyrotechniky. Online. Available from: https://www.sever.brno.cz/images/soubory/ozv_pyrotechnika_2020.pdf. [cit. 2023-12-30].

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