What Texas Ranchers Want You To Know About Memorial Balloons
First, let me begin by saying that if you recently lost a loved one, I am deeply sorry for your loss. I certainly know that pain and it isn't an easy burden to bear. Eventually, if we live long enough, we will lose someone we care about deeply. And we will turn to rituals and community to get through it.
However, Texas ranchers and animal lovers everywhere want you to know that balloon releases for departed loved ones are a deadly practice for livestock and wild animals. You may feel like the symbolism of the balloons reaching heaven is comforting, but we all know the balloons just pop and land back on the ground. Often, they land on ranches, where they are eaten by animals like calves who choke on the balloon and asphyxiate to death. I don't think your departed loved one would want that.
Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller posted a poignant reminder of this to Facebook a few months back, but it's been circling social media again, and I am grateful for that. Sorry for the photo of the dead calf, but it's important that we all see what these releases do:
Fair warning- you might be met with resistance when you suggest alternatives to a balloon release. When I was in junior high, my school planned a balloon release in memory of people who died of drug overdoses. Myself and a few friends spoke out about the possibility of the balloons being eaten by animals (I think we were specifically concerned for the ducks) and we were met with a lot of resistance by our teachers and school staff. I remember being told that "I didn't care about people who died of drugs," by an adult, as if animal sacrifice was the only way to prove that I did. Luckily, we stuck to our guns and got the release canceled.
When I die, my hope is that if anyone feels the need to do anything for me, they will donate blood, plant a tree, or spend some time loving on shelter animals. I bet the people you care about feel something similar.