The Bitter History of Chocolates
Chocolate. Oh, the sweetest of decadent treats. Hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate almond butter smoothies. What’s not oh-so-sweet about chocolate, though, is the amount of forced labor and child slavery involved in harvesting the cocoa beans to make it. This forced slavery thing is very real, friends.
In college, I was an Anthropology major and focused my studies on human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking in the United States. As we discussed the definition of slavery for an entire semester, I learned more about the issues of labor trafficking on an international level, and chocolate hung out at the of the “goods most harvested by slaves” list. Cocoa beans for making chocolate oh-so-sweet is a great example of one of the products made by child labor.
A majority of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa and Latin America, and day in and day out, many folks are enduring inappropriate and abusive situations to ensure that we all get to enjoy a savory bite of chocolatey dessert.
I remember one story someone told me about a child they saw interviewed who picked cocoa beans for a living. The reporter asked this little boy about his role on the farm, and he said he had never even tasted a chocolate bar and didn’t even know why he was picking the beans. He also made comments about the abuse he endured. Child abuse and slavery are very real today.
On that day in my class called “Is This Slavery?”, I committed to stop consuming any chocolate made by forced labor. I decided it was not worth the risk of what someone else had to experience for me to enjoy a dessert for 5 minutes.
I share this information not as a guilt-trip by any means — and please hear me when I say that. I share about the reality of child slavery with you because I want you to be an educated consumer and know where your food is made. Whether it is chocolate, veggies, fruits, coffee, tea, or meats — know the source of your food.
The Good News:
Not every cocoa farm maintains unethical practices. In fact, many companies are striving for better working environments for their employees (as well as improved protection of the land) and are banning child slavery.
How do you know which companies to trust? We must do research, friends. Gratefully, there are people out there who are doing this type of investigating for us (thank goodness for them!). Look for Fair Trade labels — they are certifications that ensure ethical practices for both people and the Earth.
Check out the Food Empowerment Project for more information about chocolate slavery, as well as the approved fair-trade list of chocolate maker companies who do not embrace slavery practices. Let’s change the world, friends. One chocolate bite at a time.
Other places to look for info: