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Beyond a yolk: the inevitable annual row over Easter eggs

Last year’s promotional material from the Cadbury and National Trust Easter Egg Hunt.

As the Easter holidays approach, humanists are bracing themselves for the now inevitable annual storm in an eggcup. In the last few years, Christian campaigners and national newspapers have tried to whip up controversy about whether chocolate egg marketing mentions the word ‘Easter’ prominently enough. Coincidentally, the rise of such media in recent years  has followed the founding and subsequent marketing of a Christian confectioner called the Meaningful Chocolate Company.

The Meaningful Chocolate Company was founded in 2010 to provide overtly Christian chocolate. This includes ‘The Real Easter Egg’, which is promoted as ‘the only one which has an Easter story book in the box’. All of the controversy about the messages on the boxes of Cadbury and other companies’ Easter eggs has gone hand in hand with promoting ‘The Real Easter Egg’ as an alternative.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘Enough is enough. This is getting beyond a joke and we very much hope the media will not end up with egg on its face by being taken in by these manufactured “scandals”.’

A history of scandals

Press over the years includes:

  • In 2010, reports focused quite simply on the existence of the egg. ‘“Jesus” Easter egg launched in UK’ reported the BBC. ‘The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, said… “We hope that all our supermarkets will stock the first and only Easter egg in the UK that explains the significance of Easter”’.
  • But clearly, they didn’t, at first. By 2012 The Telegraph reported, ‘Bishops claim shops don’t want Christian Easter eggs’. ‘The Bishop of Middleton, the Rt Rev Mark Davies, added: “We thought we had proven that people were not afraid to buy an Easter egg which mentions Jesus, gives money to charity and which helps in communicating the true meaning of Easter. It seems incredible that the only Easter egg gift on the market which caters for the Christian community is rejected or marginalised by our biggest retailers.”’
  • Come 2013 this tactic seemed to have worked: ‘Bishops’ lobbying pays off as supermarkets stock “Christian” Easter Eggs’. ‘Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and the Co-Op bowed to pressure after a three-year “pestering” campaign by figures including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.’
  • But by 2015, the Archbishop of York was at it again – ‘Archbishops’ anger as supermarkets snub Easter eggs featuring Jesus in favour of Darth Vader’ was the Daily Mail headline. ‘Supermarkets have been accused of pursuing an “anti- Christian agenda” after refusing to sell Easter eggs with a religious message… One chain even asked “what has Easter got to do with the Church?”, according to the makers of The Real Easter Egg, which features Christian crosses on the box and contain a leaflet telling the story of the Resurrection.’ In 2017 the Mirror identified 15 articles on the Archbishop’s website that promoted ‘The Real Easter Egg’.
  • In 2016, a new target was identified: the supposed non-Christianity of rival eggs. Various images were published purporting to show that while in the past, products from Cadbury and Nestle used the word ‘Easter’, nowadays they don’t. ‘The allegation was highlighted by the makers of the “Real Easter Egg”, a fair trade chocolate product which carries a Christian message instead of pictures of bunnies and chicks and donates its profits to charity’, reported The Telegraph. This went along with a YouGov poll, reported in The Express, claiming that the public ‘disagreed’ with the ‘dropping’. But a glance at old photos over the years shows that the story was concocted from a selective choice of products, and that it has long been the case that Cadbury and Nestlé have been fairly consistent in their levels of using the word ‘Easter’ in their packaging.
  • And then last year, the Archbishop of York issued a statement accusing Cadbury and the National Trust of removing Easter from their annual Easter egg hunt – something they didn’t do, and no-one would want them to do. This received blanket coverage, particularly once Theresa May got involved. But in his statement, the Archbishop said ‘To drop Easter from Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt in my book is tantamount to spitting on the grave of Cadbury.  Maybe everyone should now buy The Real Easter Egg.’ (As Humanists UK pointed out at the time, the fact that Cadbury was a Quaker who didn’t celebrate Easter seems to be neither here nor there.)

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

Read last year’s Humanists UK comment, ‘A storm in an eggcup: No, the National Trust has not removed Easter from its egg hunt’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/04/04/a-storm-in-an-eggcup-no-the-national-trust-has-not-removed-easter-from-its-egg-hunt/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:
https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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