I didn’t know

You maybe know my obsession with chocolate.  I am or have been an indescriminate eater of chocolate for my whole life and had come to revel in the news that chocolate, or at least very dark chocolate (which is the only kind anyway), is good for you.

But no more.

Probably you have already heard about this. I hadn’t until my friend Sharon forwarded me a link about it.

Chocolate and slavery.  Or, let us be exact: chocolate and child slavery.

The Ivory Coast exports 43% of the world’s chocolate. It also aids that export by the exploitation of male children aged 12 -16.  It has been estimated that there are approximately 12,000 – 15,000 boys in forced labor (Save the Children), lured by promises of bicycles or money for their family, instead finding 12 hour days of heavy labor, beatings with bicycle chains or branches if they stumble and fall under the heavy bags of harvested cocoa, locked into small sheds at night with a group of other boys with a can to urinate in, given corn paste for their one meal (http://www.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm)

To me, this is horrific, this is appalling and it is nauseating.  The chocolate I have eaten now seems tainted with the taste of blood or sweat. And pain. And terror. And suffering.

Having children as a part of a workforce is not an uncommon practice in Ivory Coast or other countries. And that to me is not as great an issue. It is the abuse of this cultural practice and the abuse of young boys that is sickening. And even if it were “only” 5,000 or 500 or 100 or 12, to me the taint spreads through it all.

I hold my young son and feel his soft skin and head and I know that that is how their mamas felt about these boys.

What can I do?  What about the chocolate that I enjoy, the mocha lattes, the hot chocolate, the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies or the cake?  I’ve decided to buy organic chocolate (organic growers being under more scrutiny and guidelines) and, if possible, fair trade chocolate.

It’s much more expensive, that is true.  But how can I possibly weigh the price of a child’s life against my momentary gustatory pleasure?

This link is excellent if you yourself want to know more:

Stop Chocolate Slavery (this also has a Take Action page with links to people and companies to email asking for change)



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Mom
    Oct 14, 2008 @ 12:07:17

    I just emailed Starbucks to ask if the chocolate they use comes from countries that utilize child slave labor. I shall let you know their response.


  2. ~m
    Oct 14, 2008 @ 13:20:47

    Thanks, Mom. I was going to do that myself. Actually, I still will. If enough people ask, then if they ARE, maybe they won’t!


  3. Lisa
    Oct 15, 2008 @ 16:10:45

    This is really interesting. I wasn’t aware either (and, in our defense M, it’s ‘only’ been about 10 years or so that it really became a problem, from the stuff I read). However, I try to be informed on social justice issues, and buy fair trade coffee–but never extended that interest into other crops. So, I too feel guilty about being uninformed & enjoying tainted chocolate.

    In looking for further information, I found out that the UM church (where we belong) has a challenge out to congregations to buy 100 tons of fair trade products through a related organization. I’m going to work to change my habits, and hopefully do a short Sunday school class about the topic, and perhaps enlist us in the challenge.

    And, in my own coffee-snob self interest, the fair trade coffee offered through the interfaith store has got to be better than the stuff now served!


  4. Lisa
    Oct 15, 2008 @ 16:11:19

    forgot to finish with:

    Thanks for sharing!


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