This post has had a lot of pick up, and there’s been lots of discussion regarding this on various message boards. So I’m going to try and collate some links and videos regarding this. If this whole hoo-ha is confusing you, take your time to have a look, and always hit me up with any questions you have on firstname.lastname@example.org
Who am I?
That's me, Ben, after completing seven triathlons on the bounce to raise money to help rescue egg laying hens. And Katie.
Katie died soon after this from complications caused by over production of eggs. She was from a free-range farm.
Put very simply, the animal agriculture industry are crying out for partnerships such as these. Research, investigative journalism, and and public opinion are slowly turning away from the cruel practices of these companies, so a tie-in with parkrun is a perfect form of green-washing the product. Eggs are healthy, eggs are laid by happy hens. Look at all the runners and their vague association with hens. Nothing to see here.
Hens are not happy. They are genetic mutants and will be killed by the number of eggs they are bred to lay, of they arent slughtered as a waster product before this kills them.
Males chickens are killed at birth. They are not happy.
Eggs do not make a happy planet. Think of a tens of thousands of hens. Think of the vast resources they consume. Think of the waste they produce.
Eggs do not make a happy human. And egg is the output of a birds reproductive system. Optimised by millions of years of evolution to give a chick all the nutrients it needs to become a chicken. It’s quite simply a packet of high fat bird hormones.
This is a very comprehensive take on the discussion, and a thorough review of parkrun’s response, from Plant Based News’ Dr. Alex Lockwood
The ever brilliant Chas Newkey-Burden on the con of the egg industry
Please forgive the longer post, but I’ve been thinking about this since I heard about the new parkrun partnership yesterday. This isn’t me doing some easy virtue signalling or jumping on a bandwagon though. I’m a proud park runner. I had never volunteered a minute in my life, but since I attended the first ever Hackney Marshes parkrun, I’ve volunteered, progressed to run directing, and am now one of the Event Directors at the event. I also volunteer with a number of other charities. parkrun is integral to my social life, and my run training. I’m friendly with a lot of the parkrun management team through various contacts in my life and I have the utmost respect for everything they, and parkrun have done.
I also rescue chickens, mainly through the British Hen Welfare trust. I’ve supported them with marathons and triathlons. The BHWT are supported by the Happy Egg Co. too. So there’s multiple conflicts here, and I could well be accused of hypocrisy. I’m also one of ‘those’ vegans. I think it’s right that I stand up for what I believe in. When people talk about personal choices, I will remind them of the lack of choice the animals have about their situation.
But to summarise. Running, parkrun, and chicken welfare are right in my area of knowledge. Through my day job I also understand a thing or two about branding and corporate partnerships. Which is why I think this is a terrible idea for parkrun to partner with the Happy Egg Co.
Primarily, I believe organisations that promote wellness should tread very cautiously when it comes to food choices. We receive many mixed (or more accurately mis-communicated) dietary advice via the media. We all make our individual choices. Vegans obviously are particularly vocal here, but parkrun have made a pretty bold statement in endorsing eggs full stop. At the least they’ve alienated a significant minority of their support base, but are very likely to find themselves on the wrong side of history, as evidence continues to emerge. As someone recently pointed out to me, running and eggs feels weirdly retro... like a ‘go to work on an egg’ campaign.
Eggs are also terrible environmentally. The water usage per egg (53 gallons), and the calorie conversion of feed to food both make them a truly terrible way of using this planet. Chicken farms create vast amounts of waste products and damage the surrounding areas.
Closest to my heart, egg farming is cruel. All male chicks are at best gassed, at worst macerated on day one of their life. This amounts to half a billion chicks per year in the UK. Gassing is not pain free, and is arguably worse than the alternative. Chickens are genetically selected to lay over 300 eggs a year. Compare this to the reproductive cycle of a jungle fowl, the bird that modern chickens have been bred from. They lay 10-20 eggs a year. Imagine the human reproductive cycle increased more than tenfold and you’re getting close to how damaged these bird’s insides are. The birds we rescue all die early from reproductive complications. Chickens that make it to the farm often live a life of misery. They are de-beaked, the industry fix for the frustration they experience due to their high stocking densities. Chickens cannot understand large groups, and since they can never establish a hierarchy due to the numbers, weak birds are often mercilessly attacked. Chickens will naturally live to around eight years old. All farmed chickens are slaughtered at 18months old, as their egg production slows (for a few months) at this point, and it’s financially more viable to slaughter them and restock the farm than wait for the egg production to return to normal levels. So on the best, highest welfare, organic farms, you have 50% of birds slaughtered at birth, painful mutilations carried out, a reproductive system that will likely kill them early, and if it doesnt, they’ll be killed as a adolescent.
I can see the dilemma for parkrun. They have a large corporate sponsor, and that will do a great deal of good when it comes to their core aim for getting people more healthy. Most people who parkrun probably love to eat eggs, and see them as a health food. So essentially, this partnership furthers the aims of parkrun. However, it does so whilst ignoring the ever more obvious environmental, physical and ethical problems that come with large scale animal agriculture. Quite simply, parkrun will find themselves on the wrong side of history here, and annoy a lot of people along the way.
And personally, I won’t promote this horrific, cruel industry. I will continue to love and cherish parkrun and what it brings me, my friends and my community. I don’t speak for my fellow event or run directors, but no event I direct will ever promote the Happy Egg Co.