I first learned about modern-day slavery a couple years ago. As usual, because I am a dork, it was from reading a bunch of books on it. It is one of those subjects that the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know. It goes tremendously deep and touches everything. So many of the things we use in our daily lives have been at least partially brought to us via slave labor.
This question comes into focus with Halloween just a few days away. I remember learning about chocolate from Not For Sale President David Batstone when he visited Penn State Berks. For a while a group of us, myself and a few students, pledged not to eat chocolate made by slaves. Then life moved on, other things came to our mind, and we (or at least I) just forgot.
The reality of slavery in chocolate came back to me when I read this recent blog post: “Here, Let me Ruin Halloween for You“:
The picture below is a photo of a young child gathering pods to harvest cocoa beans. There are hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa who do this work. And they are working for most of the mainstream chocolate providers in the USA. A report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and other African countries estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions. Many of them have been taken from their families, or sold as servants. U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations since they don’t own them. This includes Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the US division of Cadbury … who collectively represent pretty much every snack-size candy bar that will be available in stores this Halloween.
The timing of reading this was appropriate. My conscience would not let me hand out candy unless I was sure it was not produced by slave labor.
The good news is that there are many options to get fair trade chocolate:
The bad news it, it is next to impossible to find such chocolate in stores. Also, it is not cheap but I don’t think that should concern us so the reason other chocolate is so cheap is partly due to slavery! I am hopeful because you can now find fair trade coffee in stores, perhaps chocolate is not far behind.
Finally, I do not write this post to guilt trip anyone. Like I mentioned above, none of us are innocent in this. Many things in our lives probably were partially from slavery (perhaps even this laptop I am typing on, look up “conflict minerals“). For me, knowledge is the first step. With knowledge comes conviction and after that comes changing our lifestyles. My prayer is that my life would more and more reflect the love, peace and justice of Jesus Christ.