PETA demands university ban football game balloons

Vegan advocacy nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is demanding that the University of Nebraska at Lincoln part ways with its longstanding tradition of releasing party balloons at university football games.

PETA started an online petition to ban the balloons, alleging that they are “an environmental hazard and can travel vast distances before finally bursting and falling to the ground or into bodies of water.” The school has released thousands of balloons after its first touchdown at home football games, for the past 50 years.

“Animals then mistake the [balloon] fragments for food and consume them, which can result in choking and, sometimes, suffocation,” PETA claims. “Land animals have starved to death after their intestines {sic} blocked with balloon fragments. Wild birds have been found with balloon latex binding their necks, beaks, and legs.”

PETA asserts that it has “repeatedly contacted University of Nebraska officials to ask them to consider alternative game-day traditions but to no avail.”  

An Omaha, Neb. man filed a lawsuit against the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2016, claiming that the balloons threatened children and wildlife, but a judge dismissed the federal suit because the school’s board of regents, the defendant party, is a state agency. According to the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.” 

“They refuse to forgo this dangerous tradition, claiming that their balloons are ‘biodegradable’ and have cotton strings,” PETA says. “However, studies make it clear that even biodegradable latex balloons can take as long as four years to break down and that cotton strings can take months and pose a severe risk to wild animals, who can become entangled in them, in the interim. Each balloon release is tantamount to littering thousands of pieces of hazardous trash per week.”

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“As a regular attendee to the football games, I really enjoy the balloon release tradition, and I do not think it should be changed,” UN-Lincoln student Andrew Moritz told Campus Reform.

“I, too, had concerns about the environmental impact, but the University claims that they are biodegradable and not an environmental hazard. [There needs to be] some evidence that the balloons released at Nebraska football games are having a negative impact on the surrounding environment.”

Moritz concedes that in fact if “research shows that there is indeed a negative impact, I would not be opposed to finding another way to celebrate that does not pose a risk to the environment.” 

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National environment group American Conservation Coalition (ACC) also disagreed with the attempt to ban the release of balloons.

“Actions such as paper reduction and recycling/trash improvement would have a far greater impact on the environment at UNL,” ACC spokeswoman Bethany Bowra told Campus Reform. “While we are pleased that these efforts are opening a dialogue on safe practices for our wildlife, we believe that bans are not as effective as beneficial policies and education on an issue like this and that a ban on balloons, similar to a ban on straws, would do little to improve conditions in the bigger picture.”

Environmental nonprofit group Balloons Blow supports the ban, stating that “all released balloons, including those falsely marketed as ‘biodegradable latex,’ return to Earth as ugly litter. They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages.” 

UN-Lincoln officials “recited nonsense from their balloon provider, stating their balloons are ‘100% natural latex biodegradable’ and will ‘break down immediately,’” Balloons Blow asserts. “it is proven their balloons (as all latex balloons) are not natural & they do not break down harmlessly.” 

UN-Lincoln has an extensive sustainability program that has a wide breadth of initiatives which include a recycling program called “Go Green Big Red.” 

 “Even ‘biodegradable’ balloons can linger in the environment for as long as four years, killing countless animals who choke, suffocate, or develop intestinal blockages when they try to eat them,” PETA’s Senior Director, Stephanie Bell, told Campus Reform in a statement. “With so many animal- and Earth-friendly ways to celebrate a touchdown, it’s unconscionable to keep sending thousands of pieces of trash into the sky at every Nebraska game.”

Campus Reform has reached out to The University of Nebraska at Lincoln, but has not yet received a response.

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