I consider myself a fairly educated and thoughtful person, I eat a good diet taking care to buy free range meat where possible, I have for a long time been concerned about the welfare of the animals I eat, yet admittedly have never taken this so far as to become a vegetarian.
I buy organic vegetables (off and on!), free range eggs (always), and I try to encourage my children to develop a healthy and good relationship with food by understanding the benefits they can get from eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, and avoiding too much sugar and so on. However everyone in my family has a sweet tooth and on Saturdays as the Norwegian culture would have it, we all tuck in to our “lørdags godt” (saturday goodies!)!
But despite all the efforts I have made to educate my young children about responsible food consumption, I have given little thought, or in fact no thought to where my chocolate comes from, up until now it was just a forbidden treat lurking in a high up cupboard waiting for Saturday when we consume with delight.
Of course I have heard of fair trade before, I don’t live in a cave, but I have never really connected this with chocolate, and have never really taken the time to look into it. But guess what, chocolate comes from cacao, and the cacao industry is rife with slavery.
Apparently there are thousands and thousands of child slaves in West Africa living in terrible and dangerous conditions in order to ensure we get our regular fix of the sweet stuff.
They work long days, wielding machetes and chain saws to cut down the cacao pods and clear the way. They carry huge heavy sacks across the plantations and are sometimes beaten if they don’t work “fast enough”.
At the end of this long day, they are often locked into tiny windowless rooms and fed an insubstantial, nutrient lacking diet of whatever is the cheapest food available.
The children are typically between the ages of 12-17, and many are covered in scars from working with the machettes. However there are children as young as 5 years old working in this way, FIVE YEARS OLD.
The children are earning little or no money, and cannot leave as these plantations are usually in the middle of no where, there is literally no where to go.
It is heartbreaking to hear some of the children have actually been sold to the cacao farmers in desperation for as little as $30 or $40 by parents living in deep poverty who felt they had no other choice.
The cacao farmers are often paid very little for the cacao, and themselves live on a very low income, as a result they often use cheap child labour to keep their prices competitive, the pressure therefore needs to come from us as consumers of this non essential luxury, that we are not prepared to accept this. Whilst there is a demand, there will be a supply.
Perhaps we have been ignorant, I know I have, but armed with this new knowledge, can we continue to be negligent?, “..If you keep on buying things made by child slaves in such conditions, you are equally responsible for the perpetration of slavery.” Kailash Satyarthi (the seeker of truth), nobel peace prize winner 2014. (Follow him on Twitter)
The Food Empowerment Project quotes a little girl recently freed from slavery who had never even tasted chocolate, she said “… When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”
Suddenly my Saturday night treat doesn’t taste so good, however, there is an alternative, if you research you will find there are less offensive options, whilst the fair trade label is not a fail proof guarantee that the chocolate is completely slave free (since the supply chain is complex and poorly regulated), labels such as Divine offer a good alternative.
Divine is the only Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45% owned by cocoa farmers.
For my friends living in Norway, click here to open up the onlineshop “friends fair trade”, they have a huge selection of yummy Divine chocolate as well as other products
Just placed my first order of guilt free chocolate… hmm, “Divine” , I just need to hide it from my husband, the biggest chocolate monster in the house!
Click here to read more about child slavery in the chocolate industry – findings by the Terry Project
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him (Proverbs 14:31)
Feel free to leave a comment, it would be great to hear from you 🙂
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net