As your gather with family and friends this season, the choice activity for many is cookie fresh sweets to celebrate the holidays. Maybe you’re a fan of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or maybe even a nice chocolate cake. Even if baking is not your thing, you more than likely will enjoy the cooking of someone else. And what’s a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips? If you go to the store to pick some up, you’ll most likely reach for a reputable brand you know you enjoy, such as Hershey’s and Nestle.
However, what you just picked up is more than just a bag of chocolate chips. These companies have been found to be using child labor and to be utilizing the labor of slaves.
Chocolate comes from the cacao bean, which is found primarily in warm, moist climates such as South America, Asia and Africa. Despite the widely dispersed, accommodating climates all around the world that can produce the cacao bean, around 70% of cacao harvesting and farming is located in Western Africa. Due to the demand for cheap chocolate, companies use child slaves who are often manipulated and coerced into slavery on large cacao farms. The treatment of these slaves is comparable to that of African slaves brought to the United States during the transatlantic slave trade. Many are whipped, malnourished, and face tremendous abuse from the plantation owners. There are approximately 2.3 million children that work on cocoa fields in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
I was shocked and disturbed as I read an interview conducted by The Telegraph, with a young boy named Wambi Bakayoko, who was sold to a cacao farm on the Ivory Coast. He works from 6am to sundown every single day for no pay, with only a small break for lunch, a meager yam porridge. Bakayoko was sold to the plantation owner for 37,500 francs, approximately $50 USD. As horrifying as this story is, I was even more stunned when I learned that companies like Hershey’s and Nestle are using this type of labor to harvest the cacao beans they use to produce their chocolate.
Suddenly, Hershey’s chocolate doesn’t sound so good anymore.
However, there are several “slave free” chocolate brands that you can use to replace Hershey’s and Nestle. An antislavery advocacy organization, SlaveFreeChocolate.Org, has compiled a list of certified slave-free, fair trade chocolate companies where you can get your chocolate fix, without the guilt of benefiting from child slavery. By giving our business to small companies that care, large chocolate corporations will realize that consumers don’t want unethical products.
It’s important to know the origin of products you wouldn’t think twice about. Remember, where we put our money says a lot about who we are as people. Stand up to slavery and child labor.
Until next post,
photo credit: Daniel Rosenthal/Laif/Redux (source: thedailybeast.com)