The tradition of letting off fireworks around the end of the year is intended to disperse evil spirits and as protection against evil in general  (there are more that 1000 victims per year!). Not only is this tradition upheld annually, but the amount and caliber of fireworks  grows enormously each year.   Before, during and after the new year some 10 million kg (about 20 million Euros worth) of small firework is shot into the air. About 30% of illegal firework is added to this. The lions share (90%) is decorative firework, the rest is explosive firework.

In the act of dispersing evil spirits, man has thus become exactly that: an evil spirit himself

As fervent advocate of a Union against firework, I only have to take one matter into consideration and that is the following: the pleasure derived from letting off fireworks is in no relation to the communal damage, personal suffering, environmental pollution and animal suffering caused by said fireworks.
Almost three months after the turn of the year, local Authorities are successively coming to the conclusion that damage through destruction of municipal property during the last New Year celebrations, considerably exceeds the damage done in the previous year. The higher costs of the damage are attributed to heavier fireworks, amongst others. Article 10 of our Constitution says the following: all men are entitled to respect of their personal privacy, within the legal boundaries”. This means that animals in our society are totally dependent on the goodness of humans, as the Constitution does not apply to animals. Some local Authorities and in the following case, animal protection (RSPCA), do take measures, but solely based on their own views and available resources.

My daughter witnessed the following: a group of rowdy youngsters attacked RSPCA personnel when they attempted to protect new born ducklings from fireworks. The volunteers had to be careful that they were not injured themselves. That such a thing could happen in the course of the volunteers' work is deplorable. When the ducklings had been brought to safety, the perpetrators were pursued, but to no avail. This is not an isolated incident. Only the large excesses seem to make the newspaper headlines, the case of the young ducklings is obviously not newsworthy enough to be published; at least we could find nothing about it in the papers.

Environment

The fall out from fireworks is detrimental to the environment. It gets into the soil, air and water. Explosive fireworks emit carbon dioxide. Decorative fireworks also emit dust particles, including metal particles.
In the new Fireworks ruling, enforced on January 22 2002 and amended in 2004, the Authorities stipulated what is understood by consumer fireworks and professional fireworks, and which product safety requirements need to be observed. Amongst others, it states that the sale of consumer fireworks is only permitted during the last 3 days of the year. No more than 10 kilos of fireworks per delivery may be sold to private buyers.  You may also not have more than 10 kilos (!!) of fireworks in your possession in public. The new Fireworks Act also facilitates louder (banging) fireworks. Will this improve the personal privacy of the firework user? (art. 10 of the Constitution). When a law such as the Fireworks Act makes it possible to produce and buy heavier fireworks, one should first be aware of who profits by it and who does not. The manufacturer profits from it now (and the animal shelters - animal lovers bring their pets en masse to the shelter for a few days).

When fireworks have been let off, the remains stay on the ground. This is about 6 million kilograms of refuse annually, which consists mainly of paper (from the explosive and decorative fireworks) and wood, plastic and clay (from the decorative fireworks). The majority is dumped among household refuse and street refuse.
During New Year celebrations the air is full of smog. Apart from the fine dust particles, gaseous dusts (such as sulpher dioxide, methane, carbon dioxide) enter the air. In some places the concentration of fine dust can be 5 or 6 times as high as usual, for a number of hours on New Years night.
When decorative fireworks are let off, apart from combustion gasses, metals are also emitted, such as barium, copper and strontium. The total emission of these dusts does not, however exceed any maximum acceptable limits for surface water, soil or air. This does not only apply to copper, of which the concentration in many areas of surface water does exceed the maximum acceptable limit. About 15% of the total impact on surface water by copper is caused by fireworks. Copper is toxic to plants and animals, when the natural levels are exceeded.

Back to the ducks: It goes without saying that fireworks are disastrous for animals; nobody carries his dog in his arms to enjoy watching a fireworks display.  Who cares about nesting swans that have been killed by a farmer's mowing machine? Live fish that been put in an angler's plastic bag and kept on the waterside? We call this sport. The RSPCA has never been able to prevent it. The cart-dog was only forbidden long after transport had been motorized.
Who should carry the load now? If the article hardly works in practice, is it not high time that the Constitution is amended? There is no mention of animal protection, let alone animal rights in the Coalition Agreement.
The Dutch fireworks tradition is just as crazy as the Spanish tradition of bullfighting. In The Netherlands, more that 1000 victims of injuries caused by fireworks need to seek medical help annually, if we tolerate this, are we really in a position to offer protection to the animals?

Frans Roos
Zoetermeer, 22 februari 2007