While we celebrate life, historic events and auspicious occasions in so many different and unharmful ways, it’s a strange practice that some choose to celebrate with explosions. It is even more baffling why some choose to blow their cash in the air just for a few seconds of sparkles, especially during these hard times. But is this riveting pyrotechnic lightshow even worth it?
While bright flashing lights painted across the skies in every colour of the rainbow may be mesmerizing at that very moment, lingering agony and trauma is inflicted on vulnerable groups by these frightening gunshot explosions, reverberating the streets, travelling roughly 1100 ft per second and as far as 50 miles.
Since when does momentary joy and entertainment of an individual outweigh the well-being, health and safety of others. The use of fireworks goes far beyond a mere inconvenience but into the realm of danger, nuisance and outright torture and despair.
For instance, humans cannot tolerate sounds exceeding 85 decibels. Dogs have very sensitive hearing, as low as -5 decibels. Meanwhile, fireworks create an impulse sound that can reach up to 175 decibels.
These deafening booms are not only obviously terrifying but unsafe for babies, for mentally ill persons and for the elderly whose nerves and blood pressure are not what they once were. Where is the compassion?
Furthermore, these sharp noises and flashing lights cause great anxiety, fear and are traumatizing to animals as they perceive them as a threat/danger. The noises trigger animals’ “fight-or-flight” instincts, causing them to desperately try and escape, hide or flee at all costs, which usually result in injury or even death. Their racing hearts, defenceless cries and uncontrollable panting become etched in the minds of their owners. For the last “fireworks seasons”, horrid images of lifeless or injured pets and mangled carcasses of runaway pets on the highways flooded social media.
In 2019, tragedy struck when an 18-month-old kangaroo died at the Emperor Valley Zoo as a result of traumatic stress brought on by loud explosions from the country’s Independence Day fireworks show. The noise was so disturbing to the helpless creature that it caused it to beat around its enclosure resulting in the bleeding of its brain. Six birds were also found dead at the zoo. Despite this morbid occurrence, we continue to celebrate the death and suffering of animals with the use of fireworks because we continue to be selfish and put aesthetics and entertainment first.
Furthermore, the Trinidad and Tobago Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (TTSPCA) Port-of-Spain Shelter reported that between 1st October 2016 to 31st January 2017, “the fireworks season”, 198 calls were received reporting lost dogs, yet only 36 were found. Already limited resources of the shelter are wasted in boarding these lost pets and locating their owners.
The Summary Offences Act Chap 11:02 (“the Act”) in its current form prohibits persons from letting off fireworks within any town which includes the City of Port-of-Spain, the City of San Fernando, and the Borough of Arima and carries a fine of $1,000.00. The Act’s Regulations provide for fireworks permits and for the Minister to prescribe times and conditions for the use of fireworks in towns, even though none have been prescribed. So, what innovative life-changing amendments have the legislative drafters proposed to alleviate the problems with fireworks?
According to the Summary Offences (Amendment) Bill 2021, “the Fireworks Bill”, persons are allowed to discharge fireworks on– (a) a public holiday between 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and (b) the 31st day of December between 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.” (proposed section 101A).
Yes, you read it correctly. The Fireworks Bill technically broadens the use of fireworks and specifically allows for its discharge during public holidays; the said days when people use fireworks the most; the said days which cause the most trauma and incidents. Other than holidays, when do we really use fireworks?
Additionally, the proposed Section 101B allows for persons to discharge fireworks on any land belonging to them as if the explosives sounds can be contained within the property…
The non-sensical proposed amendments suggest that the Fireworks Bill in essence “decriminalizes” cruelty towards both humans and animals during the permitted days and times. It is ironic that under the said Act, it is an offence (which carries a fine up to $100,000.00 and to imprisonment for 1 year) to abuse, torture or maltreat an animal. Torture and pain cannot be “regulated”.
For many years, the adverse effects of fireworks have been highlighted. The Fireworks Bill is a blatant disregard for all the pain and suffering caused and is a disappointing and pathetic attempt by the legislative drafters to create a smokescreen to quiet the masses. This Bill, just like a pyrotechnic lightshow, is a lot of unnecessary noise with little to no effect, meaning or purpose.
This piece of draft legislation is nothing more than a colourful façade, ignoring the decades of outcry, debates and recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Social Services and Public Administration, the Environmental Management Authority and the private sector for the adverse effects of fireworks. The evidence, statistics and reports have been repeatedly put forward to the legislative drafters time and time again, yet decriminalized cruelty is put to the public for consultation? When lives, health and safety are at risk, what is left to discuss.
There is only one solution to protect our voiceless which is to ban the use of fireworks by the public. While a complete legislative ban on the use of fireworks is the end goal, we too must, until then, assume personal responsibility and refrain from using fireworks…the skies have had enough!