Germany′s Easter fires deadly for animals, warn activists | News | DW | 19.04.2019
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Germany's Easter fires deadly for animals, warn activists

In Germany, it's tradition to gather around a big bonfire over Easter to mark the end of a long, dark winter. But activists say these blazes often become death traps for small animals like hedgehogs and rabbits.

Animal rights campaigners have urged Germans to refrain from lighting fires to celebrate Easter this year, warning the custom could be fatal for small species.

Gathering around a bonfire on the eve of Easter Sunday is a popular tradition in Northern Europe that dates back to pagan times. In many parts of Germany, the ritual, which likely began as a way to greet the spring after a long winter, is as much a part of the long weekend as theEaster bunny or hunting for eggs.

Piles of dried wood and kindling are often assembled days, or even weeks, in advance to prepare for the event. According to conservation group NABU, that's a problem for a host of insects, birds and small animals — including hedgehogs, rabbits, shrews, toads and weasels — who might see the stack of wood as an attractive place to seek shelter or build a nest.

"When these fires are lit for Easter, they virtually become a funeral pyre for these animals," NABU spokesman Philip Foth said.

Read moreHow to celebrate Easter in Germany

In a statement, NABU said that Germans wanting to take part in the bonfire tradition should construct their fire as close as possible to Sunday. If that's not an option, they should carefully rearrange the sticks on the day of the fire to give animals a chance to flee.

Spokesman Foth said many communities were aware of the danger, with some cities imposing fire regulations. In the northern state of Bremen, for example, there's a law stipulating that Easter bonfires cannot be built more than a day before the event. The rule also states that any animals that are found must be taken to a safe place.

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In Oberhausen, in the western industrial Ruhr district, Easter fires are only allowed if they are public, not private, events.

In Norderstedt, just north of Hamburg, the local branch of the Green Party has called for private Easter fires to be banned over the carbon emissions they produce. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the emissions from these traditional fires and campfires combined amount to some 400,000 tons being released in Germany each year.

nm/msh (KNA, dpa)

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