PRIMARY school children have shunned a trip to SeaWorld in America in favour of a visit to the European Parliament to protest against keeping killer wales in captivity.
Young campaigners at Devonshire Road Primary School are making plans to travel to Brussels to lobby against keeping orcas in sea parks.
Their campaign, inspired by the award winning film Blackfish, of which they watched age-appropriate excerpts, has won over the world's leading anti-captivity campaigners and organisations including Born Free Foundation, children’s authors and sports personalities.
Year six children at the school in Heaton studied the plight of killer whales in a literacy project.
They were first wowed by the animals' antics in sea parks but were then sad and angry after learning how some had been captured and put into breeding programmes, and how they lived in enclosures.
Together they created and filmed themselves reciting a powerful poem – from the view point of a killer whale – which has since been seen on social media, catching the attention leading “anti-cap” campaigners.
That led to a Skype session with Sam Berg, a former SeaWorld trainer and now part of The Orca Project, who has also appeared on news channel CNN .
Their video has now been seen more than 1,000 times.
The Born Free Foundation now wants to promote the work of the children, and Virginia McKenna, actress and Born Free co-founder, will judge a school writing competition.
Simon Hunt, year six teacher, said: “I showed them the current SeaWorld show from YouTube and a picture of me when I visited when I was 16.
“The children were in awe and they all voted to go.
“The next day I posed the question ‘How do you think the original Orcas came to be in SeaWorld?’.
“I showed them the clip from Blackfish, the part when the young whales are taken from the sea, and asked - 'if you were young Orcas, how would you feel if you were taken?'
“I asked them if they still wanted to go to SeaWorld - and none of the children wanted to go.
"They now want to go to Brussels to have their voice heard.
“I knew when people saw the video of the children reading the poem they could not help but be touched by it.
“But in just a week we have had more than a 1,000 views and tweets and responses from Riddick Bowe and Anthony Horowitz.
“I think the children feel they have a voice, and it is very empowering for them.”
Iqra Hussain, aged 10, said: “It was interesting seeing the other side and really emotional seeing the killer whales crying when they were taken from the seas.
“It is important young people learn about things like this - we can make a difference.”
Haseeb Ahmed, aged 10, added: “I will be very excited to go to the European Parliament if I am chosen.
“By sharing what we know we can help.
“We were so excited when Anthony Horowitz tweeted us.”