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Witney residents concerned about balloon releases ‘harmful to wildlife’


Sep 25, 2022

WITNEY residents have raised concerns about balloon releases being harmful to wildlife, after a helium balloon was found in a field.

Pictures were shared in a Witney community group online after a blue helium balloon was found in a house paddock.

Members of the group were quick to comment on how dangerous the balloons are to wildlife and farm animals in particular.

Char Ghabor said: “I cringe whenever I see helium balloons soaring to the sky, and into our oceans, it should be stopped.”

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Mike Tyrrell said: “I am amazed to think that people find this funny, to see an animal suffocating or choking to death because of these balloons is far from amusing.”

Naomi Lanighan said: “I'm sure they did it for well-intentioned reasons, but it's a known fact that people's beloved animals, livestock and wild animals can die a slow and painful death because people choose to release balloons.

“Raising awareness so people do think about the consequences of this is a good thing.”

Sarah O'Sullivan said: “Helium balloons should be banned in my opinion.”

Nicholas James said: “A pointless waste of precious helium. This is one product I think should be banned.”

Chelsey Lovato said: “Balloons can kill horses and livestock and while people let balloons off for well intentional reasons, it’s people’s animals that are at risk of getting seriously injured or worse from balloons.”

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Several animal welfare and conservation groups, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), are calling for a ban on outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases.

According to the RSPCA, ingesting balloons can cause animals’ death by blocking the digestive or respiratory tracts and has been witnessed and documented in farm animals as well as marine turtles, dolphins and whales.

Deflated balloons or balloon fragments can look very attractive as food to animals and any fragments left on the ground or floating in water can easily be eaten.

The RSPCA also said that even if the balloons are marked as degradable they may take a number of weeks to degrade, and it could take only seconds for an animal to swallow a balloon or balloon fragment.

In 2013, DEFRA produced a report on sky lanterns and balloons, in which they identified the choking of a goat and the fatal choking of a cow due to swallowing balloon fragments.

The Marine Conservation Society run a national campaign, “Don’t Let Go”, aimed at educating the public and pushing councils and Government to make a change.

Following various social media campaigns, many organisations have cancelled planned balloon releases and local authorities, including Oxford City Council, have adopted the message and are actively discouraging their residents against holding balloon releases.

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi