Is it ethical to buy Easter eggs?

Our ethical columnist provides advice on eggs, fish, turkeys and bird flu.

Ethan Greenhart

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Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I don’t have kids of my own, but I have nieces and nephews. I dote on them, obviously, and sending them chocolate Easter eggs is one of the ways I give them a treat during the year. But lately I’ve become concerned about the potential ecological impact. Should I carry on buying the eggs?

Yours,

Chris Toobare
Birmingham

Dear Chris,

In some ways, Easter is a very sad time. That’s because it brings to an end a period – Lent – when people are told they must give something up. Six weeks of sacrifice is only a start though. We mustn’t rest until people engage in 52 weeks of sacrifice per year. To take a modern Christmas tune, ‘I wish it could be Lent every day’.

I also admire the story of Jesus in many ways. Here was a man who lived a simple life with few material comforts, who walked everywhere except for the odd journey by donkey (not, I fear, a low-emissions form of transport!) and then died horribly for his beliefs. I have often wondered whether a similar fate awaits me. As a voice in the wilderness, perhaps I will only truly find an audience if I become an example to everyone by laying down my life. And like Jesus, I am recognised as a wise man everywhere except in my ‘own land’. Sheba remains firmly an ‘unbeliever’. One day, they’ll be nailing me to a tree. Then she’ll be sorry – but too late.

Easter has a mixed message. On the one hand, the traditional Bible story refers to the resurrection. This is clearly an allusion to recycling. While I have no faith in religion myself, if the Son of God can rise again, surely all that waste paper, plastic and aluminium could be re-used somehow?

On the other hand, the modern traditions of Easter are only going to ruin the planet. For example, those Easter eggs will involve the production of a considerable amount of cocoa. In some areas of the world, cocoa is produced using child labour. This is disgusting and should be stopped now. The last thing we need is the consumption of goods which encourage the production of more children.

Thousands of ‘cocoa’, ‘sugar’ and ‘milk’ miles later, the ingredients for eggs will then be mixed and moulded in factories that work all year round churning out chocolate egg after chocolate egg then store them for months at a time ready for one huge and ritualistic bout of gluttony. And when they do make their way to the shops, they will be wrapped in a ludicrous amount of packaging, a subject that has riled me on many occasions and has led me into confrontation with the law (see Is it ever ethical to use packaging?). Why do you feel the need to use material gifts to demonstrate to your nieces and nephews that you love them? Don’t you love the planet?

I hope at least you will use it as a reason not to travel to see them if they live in another part of the country. Easter is too often a flimsy excuse to visit friends and relatives not seen for a while, or to take a ‘short break’ in another country. Some 2.5million people leave these shores during Easter with untold consequences for the planet. Still, if we could only get another 25million to join them, we might reduce the population to sustainable levels.

If chocolate eggs weren’t gluttony enough, people will insist on eating fish, particularly on Good Friday. What’s Good about it? It’s certainly not ‘Good For Our Marine Ecosystems Friday’. If you want to make a sacrifice, have the good sense not to eat the flesh of anything.

That’s particularly true of turkeys. Turkeys, whose meat is dry and dull in any event (as I remember from many a traumatic family meal growing up), only ever became popular because they hoovered up food and turned it into meat more efficiently than any other animal. This is industrial poultry. No wonder they have become the centre of industrial meat production in recent years. If anyone deserves to be nailed to a tree, it is surely Mr Bernard Matthews, the organiser-in-chief of the turkey holocaust.

It was perhaps no surprise that bird flu came to Britain at one of his farms. At last, a disease that might actually have the kind of beneficial effect on the human infestation of this island last seen during the Black Death. It can only be a short while till Gaia’s Great Balancing begins.

Happy Easter!

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