Today is Fourth of July, the day millions of animals are attacked by Americans who commemorate the independence of their country. Millions of them in the form of the notorious and most blunt violence attack – the barbeque (which all of you already know very well), and millions of others by acoustical violence in the form of dozens of thousands of deafening explosions in the sky.
The use of fireworks is of course worldwide and year round, but with more than 100 million humans attending more than 14,000 fireworks displays in a single day, The Fourth of July is the symbolical day of this acoustical torture.
Since the ears of most animals are considerably more sensitive than humans’ ears, noises that are loud to humans are deafening for many other animals. The explosion of a firework is not only significantly more hurtful and stressful to animals than it is for humans, it also affects their acute sense of hearing. Fireworks can reach up to 190 decibels which is 110 decibels higher than the 80 decibel range where irreversible damage to the human ear begins (tinnitus and loss of hearing). Their noise level is higher than the noise of gunshots (140 decibels) and low-level flying jets (100 decibels).
Being attacked by extremely loud noises, besides the obvious confusion, anxiety and fear, millions of animals are trying to escape in panic. Many animals have been reportedly hit by cars during firework celebrations. Dogs are brought to shelters with paws bloody from running or torn skin from tearing through a backyard wooden fence.
Among the animals who live with humans in their houses, dogs get most of the attention because their reactions to fireworks are much more visible. They shake, they shiver, they try to hide and they often try to run away, but cats (whose hearing is even better than dogs’) suffer from fireworks too, it is just harder to notice. Both cats and dogs which are exposed to the sound of fireworks can suffer a long-lasting trauma, even irreversible ear damage.
While the plight of dogs and even cats is rather familiar (yet still totally ignored on a social and a political level), in suburbs and more rural areas many other species are hurt like owls, deer, wolves, boars, porcupines, badgers, voles, bats and etc.
Waterfowl become entangled in remnants of fireworks that land in waterways and ponds. Fishes ingest the debris and die, sometimes even causing the deaths of scavenging animals that eat them. Babies of birds, squirrels, and other small mammals are orphaned. Butterflies are becoming disoriented, injured, and killed. Many animals are hurt by the about 20,000 fires caused each year in the US alone due to fireworks. Animals who are too close to fireworks explosions often suffer significant burns and eye damage. Many others are hurt by breathing the poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke released by the fireworks.
Fireworks produce light pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, debris and litter that stay in the environment long after humans finished their celebrations (at least until the next time).
But probably the main victims of fireworks are birds. Fireworks can be hazardous to birds in several ways. If live fireworks come into contact with birds they can cause severe burns and injuries to their plumages, limbs, eyes and skin, and if the birds aren’t immediately killed, their abilities to fly, forage effectively and avoid predators can be compromised. The chemicals used in fireworks, including combustible powders and toxic inks, can also cause gastrointestinal distress if they are ingested, even in small quantities, and they can be fatal to young birds that are often learning to forage during the summer, exactly when fireworks are most popular.
The loud explosions can damage birds’ sensitive hearing and may cause enough emotional and psychological stress to drive birds away from nests, leaving behind their eggs or chicks. Many species don’t fly at night and many of them practically can’t as their night vision is too poor. When fireworks displays are set in the area (and on nights like the 4th of July it’s everywhere) they get severely disorientated and so crash into trees, houses, cars and mailboxes or, whatever is around.
After one famous case in Arkansas where thousands of dead birds were found in one small town, with no apparent reason, a necropsy analysis was done to many of them and it found trauma primarily to the chest, hemorrhaging in the body cavity, bruised skulls and blood clots in the brain. All are evidences indicating tens of thousands of powerful crashes of birds into hard objects. All resulted of panic escape from humans’ acoustical attack during a celebration.
But we don’t expect humans to stop using fireworks for birds who live outside when even the dogs and cats who live in their houses are not sufficient to stop this ear-splitting noise pollution.
Humans don’t stop even for their children. About 10,000 serious injuries by fireworks occur each year in the US alone. Not just young but old people are hurt by fireworks too, mostly due to stress and panic. And probably the severest victims among humans are the many who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
But none of the above seems to convince humans to stop this violence. Not frightened little children, scared elderlies or panicked people with PTSD, nothing stands between humans and their amusements.
In fact it’s only getting worse. The fireworks are louder and more prevalent. Besides that firecrackers are used several weeks prior and following both the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve (as soon as they reach the stores in mass production, people are setting them off), fireworks are popular in many other humans’ celebrations mostly holidays, religious festivals and weddings.
Fireworks and other detonators can be easily bought from many types of local stores. Anyone at almost any age can buy any firework they wish and operate it anywhere they want. No matter who is “on the way”.
Animals are affected by humans’ actions even when these actions are not aimed at them. While the celebrators who go out to watch fireworks displays are not doing so for the severe attack on animals, being aware of how fireworks are an acoustic torture for animals and supporting it anyway, makes it a direct attack on animals. Humans are at least aware of the effect of fireworks on dogs because many live with one. And it doesn’t take a genius to think of the harsh consequences on other animals when blowing up the skies with extremely noisy fireworks.
Even in the strictest observation the use of fireworks is perceived at most as an act of irresponsibility but not as a direct attack on animals. But once humans know of the horrible effects fireworks have on animals, it is not merely irresponsibility but a direct responsibility for the suffering of millions of animals each year, all over the world.