Yesterday after work, I went to the grocery store. Milk. Shampoo. Bread. Toothpaste. It was just a quick trip to grab some generic staples one would find in any home. I also purchased my weight in canned cat food, a romantic comedy, and some *ahem* feminine hygiene products. (Shout out to my male readers if you are still with me.) Slap a bottle of wine, a tub of ice cream, and a bag of chocolates in there and my cart would have practically screamed, “Single girl going home to her cat and a little screen time with Ryan Gosling.”
But I didn’t buy any wine…because I think wine is rather gross.
And I didn’t buy any ice cream…because I basically forgot.
And I didn’t buy any chocolate…because I don’t support child slavery.
*insert sound of record screeching to a halt here*
You heard me. Chocolate and child slavery. Believe it or not (and I do pray that you’ll believe it) most major chocolate companies source their chocolate from farms on the Ivory Coast of Africa. Okay, that part is actually easy to believe. But how about this:
These farms use forced child labor. Also known as child slavery.
Are those of you I didn’t lose at the mention of tampons still with me? Good, because this is something everyone needs to hear.
According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, there are approximately 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in Africa. Many were kidnapped or purchased from their families and are now forced to work all hours of the day in deplorable and dangerous conditions, while being fed little to nothing and beaten if they fail to meet their daily quota.
The cocoa beans their little hands harvest are then processed into the chocolate that makes the candy you may be passing out to other little hands next week.
Little hands that don’t know the sting of a switch or a whip. Little hands that have never felt the deep pain of true hunger. Little hands that are tucked safely in to their own bed each night and then rub the sleep out of little eyes when it is time to get up for school the next morning. Little hands that are held and kissed and loved. Little hands that experience so many things stolen from the little hands that were used to make their Halloween candy.
They spend the years of their childhood harvesting the millions of pounds of cocoa beans required to meet the worldwide demand for cheap chocolate. All so that those cocoa beans are a little cheaper to harvest. Sure, the savings get passed on to us…but at what cost?
Do you really need your chocolate fix so desperately that you would be willing to enslave a child to provide it for you? Because that is what happens when you purchase from a company that buys products from slave owners. You may not be the one carrying the whip, but you are financially supporting the company that purchases from the man who does.
Some complain that budgets are tight and fair-trade chocolate is expensive. How can you be expected to shell out that much extra cash for candy? Try explaining that to the ten year old boy who farmed the cocoa beans used to make your candy bar. Explain to him that his childhood, his safety, his comfort, his education, and his life are less important to you than saving a few bucks at the supermarket.
I don’t mean to be Captain Guilt Trip with this post, but this message needs to be heard.
Fortunately, it is being heard, and people are finding ways to make a difference. I’ve gathered together a few other great blog posts and articles on this topic that I would strongly encourage you to read:
Here, at Rage Against the Minivan, blogger Kristen Howerton shares a bit more information about the chocolate slave trade. She ends her post with the BBC documentary “The Bitter Truth,” a heart-wrenching exposé on the use of child slavery in the chocolate industry. If you do nothing else, please take the time to watch this documentary.
Here, at FoodisPower.org, is a great article detailing the appalling conditions children face when taken into the slave trade of the chocolate industry, including a few first hand accounts of former child slaves. I would encourage you to peruse their website for more information on this and other issues in the food industry.
Here, at Sidewalk Theologian, blogger Jess writes about her experience of learning more about child slavery in the chocolate industry and how we can make small choices that could have a big impact in this area of social justice.
Here is a great article on ways you can still celebrate this chocolate filled holiday without supporting child slavery.
Finally, here is a well researched, comprehensive list of recommended and not recommended chocolate companies, updated October 23, 2012.
I hope you will all take the time to look at the above resources and pass this information on to a few of your friends. Perhaps this new knowledge will influence your shopping habits as it did mine.
And hopefully in the near future, this issue will no longer be an issue. But that, my dear readers, is up to us.