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Worcester balloon launch 'poses threat to wildlife' say campaigners
A WILDLIFE centre is campaigning to cancel a charity New Year’s balloon launch in Worcester amid concerns for animal welfare.
The Vale Wildlife Centre, based in Beckford, near Tewkesbury, has condemned the midnight launch from the Diglis House Hotel in Worcester, saying the deflated balloons will litter wherever they land and if eaten, could kill an animal in 20 minutes.
But the hotel is standing by the event, which will raise money for the oncology department at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
Caroline Gould, manager at the wildlife centre, said: “There’s a lot of documented evidence about balloons and it is something we have been campaigning about for years.
“There are documented cases about farm animals and horses which have died from eating discarded balloons and we are especially concerned about deer, as they will eat anything that is on the ground.
“Sometimes, we get people saying they use biodegradable ones. But they take months and a horse can die in 20 minutes.
“They are not going to degrade in 20 minutes. It is great that they want to raise money for charity, but it detracts from the goodness by thinking animals could die.”
To set up the launch of balloons, hotel spokesman Roy McDonald said they had to adhere to a strict code of conduct and have consulted guidelines to make sure they were doing it properly and safely.
“The balloons are biodegradable and we have checked with NABAS (National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers) – we’re not breaking the law,” he said.
“If we do another way of fund-raising and someone else complains, what do we do then? “I don’t like to think that wildlife will be killed but do we next stop balloons being sold and ban crisp packets?
"We’re doing it with the best of intentions but how can you reduce the risk of something to nothing? You can’t.”
Some concerns had also been passed to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, a spokesman said.
A spokesman for the hospital said: “We are very grateful to the Diglis Hotel for choosing to support Worcestershire’s radiotherapy centre, which is currently under construction.
“We have received concerns regarding the nature of the event and we have passed these to the hotel for consideration.”
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, 50 balloons will take to the sky from the riverside hotel and, according to the NABAS guidelines, will start to bio-degrade within one hour and take the same amount of time as an oak leaf to completely break down.
The code of conduct written by the association, with input from leading environmental organisations, also said that if balloons were inflated properly and released, they would fly for five miles before shattering and falling to the ground and it was only if they were not prepared correctly that they could pose a threat to wildlife.
For further information or advice, call NABAS on 01989 762204.