April 6, 2012
Death by Chocolate
Labels: Dinner Conversation
I have never been a huge fan of chocolate. I never hoarded it away for when it would later be needed. I have never really had massive chocolate cravings where it was all I could really think of. I've just never been that person! Even as a child, I preferred to have white chocolate over all others. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed munching away on a small slab, or enjoyed a chocolate turtle, hedgehog or Easter rabbit. It was just never an important food item for me.
Easter is upon us. While it's a holiday meant to be spent for its religious implications, it has also become a holiday for chocolate lovers, especially children.
We eat chocolate now because in medieval times, Christians would give up exotic and luxury items for lent. As Easter was the end of lent, often rich foods were reintroduced into the diet. Chocolate used to be considered a luxury, so it became part of the Easter tradition.
There is a dark side to chocolate though, and it is one that is not often spoke of. Major chocolate companies collect their chocolate from an commodities exchange, where chocolate is collected from around the world and mixed into one pile. The Ivory Coast supplies up to 60% of this collection of chocolate, and 90% of the chocolate they collect is through child/slave labour.
Let me say that again. The chocolate being purchased by big companies such as Nestle, Mars, Hershey, and Cadbury, is collected through child slave labour. (Actually, I just noticed at work that Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar is labelled as fair trade now! I purchased it right there just to show you, GO CADBURY! Here's an article I found on it when I wanted to research it some more - (Calgary CTV). (After even more research, I discovered that Cadbury is only able to do this in the U.K. and Canada, but not the United States because Hershey owns its producing rights)
These companies are able to avoid being tagged with "Slave Labour Chocolate" because they purchase their chocolate from this international commodities exchange. Because the chocolate isn't purchased directly from the farmers, the companies can then claim they do not participate in slave labour. But they do. It is too difficult for them to clean up their supply chains. It's something that they are very aware of, but don't do anything about. Under government pressure, they came out with several deadlines to review and clean up their act. Those deadlines were in 2005, 2008 and in 2010 and no changes have been made. Hollow promises.
I had just finished reading the novel The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. It was a historical fiction novel that documented the slave trade of Africans and how they were removed to work in the Americas and Europe. It was a revealing and depressing book, but excellent in how it was written. What really stood out for me though, was the uncaring attitude of all those involved in slavery. Even those that did seem to care could not, or would not, go against the system. They would sit back and let the system work around them. Horrible right?
It's comparable to the modern day. Although today, they do a better job of keeping this sort of thing a secret. So what can you do? Imagine if you will that those huge corporations announced that they would only purchase fair trade chocolate? Would those chocolate farms still forge ahead with slavery, or would they change to meet the demands of these huge companies? I'm sure that some wouldn't change, but I am also sure that several would be forced to change in order to continue their business.
So next time you munch down on a Snickers, Wunderbar, or even a Hershey Kiss, consider where that chocolate came from and the price that was paid to give it to you. For those chocolate lovers out there, finding some fair trade chocolate isn't really that hard. Remember, the consumers hold the power. And fair-trade chocolate is still chocolate, just with a lot less emotional baggage.
Just some food for thought.