The animal rights organisation Gaia has started a new campaign calling on municipal authorities who still allow fireworks to introduce new rules to encourage users to switch to low-noise versions.
The change would benefit animals, which regularly suffer from the shock of loud explosions around this time of year.
“Every year we receive a great many complaints from people who see their pets suffering terrible anxiety,” said Gaia director Ann De Greef. “We are asking everyone to contact their local authority via www.geenvuurwerk.be to ask them to choose either no fireworks or low-noise fireworks.”
Traditional fireworks use a mild explosive at a point known as the “break” when the firework reaches its maximum height, which bursts the projectile open and spreads its sparkling contents into the air.
But although the explosive is mild in terms of explosions, it still causes a loud noise which scares animals, sometimes causing them to escape and look for shelter, which can lead to accidents or to the animal getting lost or injured.
Gaia, together with then-Brussels minister for animal welfare Bianca Debaets, gave a demonstration of the recent technology producing low-noise fireworks. For comparison, a traditional fireworks produces up to 170 decibels of noise at its break. A low-noise firework, on the other hand, produces only 85 decibels.
The Flemish region, meanwhile, has instituted an overall ban on the use of fireworks, although the local municipality can decide to allow them as part of an organised fireworks display. Gaia welcomed the decree when it was introduced in April this year, but the effect has been limited.
Every year the municipality has to put out a public tender for the organisation of the display if it chooses to allow them. “The manufacturers of traditional fireworks lobby the communes for nothing to change,” De Greef said. “Yet low-noise fireworks are just as pretty, and a good deal more animal-friendly.”
At present, some communes in the three regions have chosen to ban fireworks altogether. Others organise displays but disallow use by members of the public. Some municipalities, like Zelzate, Kalmthout and Bruges, have already opted for low-noise fireworks. In Wallonia and Brussels, meanwhile, some local authorities have taken no measures at all.
For the time being, the website for the campaign in favour of low-noise fireworks is only in Dutch. The site can be used to send a form message to local authorities calling for a change to policy.