The Flemish government has proposed a total ban on setting off fireworks – unless the local authority decides to allow it. At present fireworks may be set off by individuals everywhere in Flanders unless the municipality decides otherwise. Fewer than 40 councils from the total of 308 have a total ban, and in 103 municipalities the council has to approve.
The new rule would reverse that situation: fireworks would be banned everywhere, unless the local authority gives permission. But even in that case, fireworks would only be allowed in specified locations and at particular times, such as New Year’s Eve.
The reason for the new rule, explained animal welfare minister Ben Weyts, is to prevent the situation that arises on special occasions like New Year, when firework use is virtually universal in the region, regardless of any municipal ban. That leads to accidents involving scared pets some of them fatal.
“Every year I get dozens of mails with stories and photos of animals who have been wounded or even killed,” Weyts said. “The situation was very unclear, with everyone assuming that fireworks were permitted everywhere and at all times. We’re turning that logic on its head: in practice local authorities will be more reserved, and will limit fireworks to designated locations and well-chosen moments.”
No date for the measure to come into force has yet been decided.
Animal rights organisation Gaia welcomed what it called “a limited step in the right direction”.
“The barrier to allowing an exception to the rule will now be higher,” said president Michel Vandenbosch. “And if fireworks are used despite the ban, the problem will be more easily dealt with.” The measure allows more freedom for local authorities to punish firework use.
However Gaia said it would have liked to see the government go further, by making the use of noiseless fireworks mandatory in cases where they were allowed, including organised displays. According to Bart Caron, member of the Flemish parliament for Groen, who support the measure, that provision may be added at a later date, when the technology has made such a thing feasible.