Rural campaigning organisation the Countryside Alliance is asking members of the public to stop setting off sky lanterns following a sale push by online companies.

Adverts on social media have encouraged the public to buy sky lanterns as a way of showing support for the NHS.

Sky lanterns are often made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a lit candle is suspended.

Once released, they often drift for miles. They are regarded as a menace for farmers and landowners who frequently report sheep, cattle and horses being injured or even dying from eating the wire metal frames of the lanterns.

On top of this, sky lanterns are also a serious source of litter in the countryside.

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Alliance said: “Right now, we are all thinking up ways to support our amazing National Health Service.

"Sky lanterns are often marketed as being fun ways of marking an event but in reality, they are incredibly dangerous to wildlife and people. Once you set off a lantern and have that minute of joy watching it go up into the night’s sky, you lose track of it and have no control over where it ends up.

"Far too often, animals choke on the debris that lands in fields and fires are started. It is especially hazardous in the hotter and dryer months. Please do not set them off and help prevent using up the valuable time of our already stretched emergency services. Consider donating any money you would have spent directly to the NHS instead.”

Last week, the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) issued a fresh plea for the public to avoid lighting sky lanterns, describing a recent attempt by companies to market them as a means of showing support for NHS workers as “misguided”.

In a statement, Roy Wilsher, NFCC chairman, said the: “NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.”

While there is currently no national legislation in place regarding the use of sky lanterns, a number of councils have banned the release of sky lanterns on council owned land.

READ MORE: RABDF sets record straight on why dairy farmers are having to discard milk