As the clock ticks down to 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2022, people worldwide will begin counting the seconds until the start of the new year and bid farewell to 2022. People will enter the new year with fresh vows to forget the numerous letdowns. There will be barbecue parties, flying Fanush (flaming lanterns) and blasting ear-splitting music, and the crackle and pop of firecrackers will repeatedly light up the night sky. While people celebrate this, do they think about the other living beings who are also part of society?
The local animals and birds become confused due to the smoke and loud noise from the firecrackers. They become terrified and begin to flee. And this leads to many unpleasant things during the 31st December night.
"Next to my hall is a Rain Tree that is home to kites. On the night of the previous festival, the birds fled from the trees and ran into the front yard, with some clinging to the window grills out of fear of the sound and brightness of the firework. When the celebration was over, they didn't head back to the tree right away," said Tasnim Mahzabin of the DU Animal Welfare Team. She is a resident of Rokeya Hall at the University of Dhaka and strives to improve the conditions for the animals on her campus.
She mentioned that fireworks at the celebration of winning games, the New Year's celebration, and other national events frighten the animals. Particularly in the case of street dogs, fireworks and other loud noises might cause them to become hostile and even violent toward any loud object.
For the past few years, fireworks have become synonymous with English New Year celebrations in Bangladesh, which is detrimental to animals. We see an example of this during the New Year celebrations in 2021. A video then went viral on social media showing a group of birds flocking to the videographer's apartment amid the cracking sound of crackers and shrieking with each blast of fireworks. Not only do the birds scatter at the sound of firecrackers, but so do the street dogs, making for a potentially dangerous situation on the road. In addition to inciting fear, fireworks pose a major threat to the environment and wildlife.
Charcoal and sulfur are commonly used as fuel for fireworks, and the resulting sulfur dioxide has been associated with lung injury. Sulfur has adverse effects on the natural environment as well. The German news organisation Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that a single day of celebration produces as much smog as a vehicle does in a year's worth of emissions.
Smog is a combination of smoke and fog. Inhaling the chemicals and particles from these pyrotechnics causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems in people and other animals, often leading to death. Animals may suffocate or be poisoned if they ingest the remains of fireworks and other explosives.
The world became aware of the negative consequences of fireworks on wildlife in the early hours of 2021 when a tragedy occurred in Rome, Italy. On December 31, thousands of starling birds were found dead outside Rome's main train station; it is thought that loud fireworks were to blame. The incident has been labelled a massacre by the International Organisation for the Protection of Animal Rights (IOPA).
Even so, Rome wasn't the only place to experience this. During the New Year's Eve celebrations in 2010, 4,000 to 5,000 red-winged blackbirds were discovered dead in Beebe, Arkansas, USA. The news alarmed some locals, who thought it might be a paranormal occurrence. However, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) results later revealed the reason behind this incident, claiming that the numerous deaths were caused by blunt force trauma brought on by loud fireworks. It caused the birds to lose control and collide with various objects, killing them.
Sympathetic and responsible celebrations are necessary
These innocent creatures have the same right as humans to see a new day. But we don't think twice about putting these animals' lives in peril to fulfil our selfish desires.
Jannatul Ferdous Muna, a resident of Dhaka's Baganbari area and a dedicated animal lover, enjoys caring for three different species of birds, cats, and bunnies. She expressed her concerns about her pets on particular festival nights by saying, "I don't mind fireworks, but my pets' conduct troubles me. I try to keep these helpless creatures accompanied as they rush around the home in fright, hiding under beds and couches."
She feels that it is our moral responsibility to change how we celebrate for the sake of these little lives. Different countries around the world are thinking of alternative celebrations without fireworks. Many countries use silent firecrackers and carbon-neutral fireworks as part of the celebration. When the entire globe is on alert, we cannot remain indifferent.
Quieter alternatives to fireworks, such as laser lights and drone light shows, can be considered to avoid disturbing wildlife. It is never desirable to welcome a new year through the deaths of hundreds of tiny souls.