Chinese lanterns cause animals to suffer "a slow, painful death" and should be banned, according to the body which runs Epping Forest.

Today City of London Corporation has joined the fire brigade in calling for the popular lanterns to be outlawed.

This week a lantern caused a large blaze at a recycling plant in the Midlands and head forest keeper Keith French said they also pose a high fire risk to Epping Forest.

And he added the lanterns also are a common threat to wildlife. 

Mr French said; "We absolutely support the banning or regulating of Chinese lanterns.

"It is hard to quantify how many animals have been injured because of the density of the forest, but I can tell you that in the deer sanctuary, where it is open and we can see, we have found as many as nine lanterns at a time.

"There is a huge fire risk, especially around farmer’s crops, but also, a risk to wildlife.

"The wire gets caught around the feet of badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and deer and can cause some bad injuries to their legs.

"Cattle are renowned for eating the wire. It gets stuck down their throats and causes a very slow, very painful death.

"What people need to remember is that when they let go of those lanterns they have absolutely no control over where they land, no control over the animals that they could hurt or the fires that could be started."

Despite calls for an urgent review of the use of the lanterns, which were designed to be let off over the sea, the government is yet to commit to action.

Use of the paper and metal devices is banned in Austria, Germany and Australia.

Mr French told the Guardian that the City of London will never support lantern releases on its land - despite receiving some celebrity requests.

He said: "In the past we have been very unpopular because we have turned down large release requests. We were approached for a mass release at High Beech when Jade Goody died but we had to say no.

"We were also approached by mourners after someone was killed on one of the forest roads.

"They are dangerous and we will not condone their use on forest land. Because of the fire danger and our duty to protect animals in the forest, we will never license their use."