Balloon protest children praised

CHILDREN who boycotted a balloon release raising funds for their school were today praised by a national conservation organisation for their “excellent attitude” to protecting wildlife.

CHILDREN who boycotted a balloon release raising funds for their school were today praised by a national conservation organisation for their “excellent attitude” to protecting wildlife.

The environmentally-conscious youngsters were afraid the balloons could be swallowed by marine wildlife - such as seabirds, turtles, dolphins and whales - mistaking them for food.

Richard Harrington, communications manager for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), said the society was thrilled to hear of the youngsters at Trimley St Mary Primary School refusing to buy balloons for the event.

“I am really pleased that the children took that on themselves - what an excellent attitude,” he said.

“For a primary school that's brilliant because it shows the even at such a young age the children understand the environment and the need to protect it.

“We don't want to spoil people's fun or harm anyone's fundraising but just releasing balloons into the environment and not knowing where they are going to land just isn't acceptable.

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“There are many issues about the impact of these events on the environment and especially for sea life where the animals, especially those which feed on jellyfish, will mistake pieces of balloon for food and it can cause them real harm.

“We are not saying don't buy balloons because there are safe ways of having fun with them and we just want people to think a bit more about how they do that.”

He would be sending the school in High Road, Trimley St Mary, a letter commending the pupil's attitude and a special MCs Don't Let Go campaign pack about the issue.

Mr Harrington said the message about balloons was getting across. A supermarket chain abandoned its planned release of thousands of balloons to open a new store in Northumberland because of the risk to seabirds, and several councils had now banned similar events.

The society was currently working with the organisers of the 2012 Olympics to ensure there were no balloon releases connected with publicity and ceremonies for the event.

Organisers of the Trimley balloon release said they didn't sell as many as anticipated because many children were worried about the dangers of the helium balloons to animals and refused to buy them.

About 100 were released and they were made of biodegradable material to avoid harming wildlife.

Wildlife experts say tides and currents disperse the deflated balloons throughout the oceans where they can be mistaken for food by a number of marine animals.

The balloons get into the digestive systems of animals which have swallowed and interfere with food uptake which in time leads to a blockage, leading to a slow and painful death due to starvation.

Should there be a ban on the release of helium balloons? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk