I was egg-scused (sorry) from parkrun this morning as I had to go to work. Meanwhile, the Unhappy Eggs parkrun drama raged on. Despite over a thousand comments mostly denouncing the partnership on the original post, parkrun HQ had no intention of backing down. They sent an email out to some concerned core team members that was extremely patronising and dismissive in tone. It said things like:
“We surveyed some parkrunners and found a third buy Happy Eggs and half would considering doing so in future”
…so that’s also 50% of parkrunners who WOULD NOT even consider buying Happy Eggs. Also, no one on Vegan Runners seemed to have been part of this survey. I certainly wasn’t. Perhaps if they’d asked a few more vegans, even fewer people would consider buying the eggs.
“We support the right of all parkrunners to make whatever personal lifestyle choices they feel appropriate”
… now hold up here, you’ve pressed my buttons with that “personal choice” thing. Not eating courgettes is a personal choice. I think courgettes are vile and would be happy to see them wiped off the face of the earth, but if other people want to enjoy their slimy, bitter, green, phallic, gross form, then go ahead. It doesn’t harm me, I just won’t look. Being vegan or not isn’t just a personal choice, it’s a choice that affects thousands of animals and the entire future of the planet. It’s not just about whether I eat eggs – my abstinence from eggs will only count if it is part of a bigger picture of egg reduction. Which, fortunately, it is, despite parkrun’s best efforts to sabotage it. If someone wanted to abuse children, we wouldn’t say “oh ok, that’s your personal choice, go ahead, so long as I don’t have to do it”. We’d do what we could to make them stop. Why is it any different with animals?
Finally, they implied, totally groundlessly that “the majority of criticism” was coming from “activitists” who are “not part of the parkrun community”. This dismissal was incredibly annoying – most of the comments were from people with running related profile pictures who clearly said they were already parkrunners or considering going along.
The Vegan Runners were, of course, up in arms and there were many individual forms of protests. One runner even suggested we should deliberately spell Parkrun with a capital P from now on as a mark of disrespect but that motion was quickly quashed as too extreme. Instead, people made back signs and race numbers signifying the number of culled chicks in an average parkrun time and decorated their running clothes with chicken paraphernalia. Some turned out in droves in their Vegan Runners vests, while others felt their only option was to stay away – even standing down from core volunteer roles. My favourite protest was at Eastville parkrun, where a man named Mike ran in a massive inflatable chicken suit, finishing in an impressive 39:05. Oh god, imagine the shame if I had been overtaken by an inflatable chicken.
Another form of protest was for parkrunners to change their registered names to things like “No Such Thing As A HAPPY EGG” and “Unhappy Egg GO VEGAN”, which meant that when the other runners checked the results, they’d see the vegan message loud and clear. And do you know what parkrun HQ (not the individual teams – several have confirmed they were not involved) did? They wiped these runners’ results from the table and the runners’ individual results – even for those people who had volunteered that week. Their run credits have been lost and so has their message, and even more importantly turning a lot of registered Vegan Runners into Unknown makes it look like there were far fewer Vegan Runners at parkrun this week. A manipulation of the data to suit the statement that the objectors were not “real parkrunners”?
I think this is a very unwise move on the part of parkrun – as Ben Wickham (the vegan event director and chicken rescuer at Hackney Marshes parkrun) puts it in this remarkably restrained blog post, “parkrun will find itself on the wrong side of history here”. There are seven times as many vegans in the UK as there were three years ago, and many more taking steps towards veganism. At a time when we are moving forwards, they are trying to take us backwards.