This Valentine’s Day I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself:
- Avoid remembering I am single.
- Procure a vampire boyfriend. (Vampires are still “in” right?)
- Do not cry myself to sleep in a bed full of empty wrappers. Again.
- At any and all times—eat chocolate.
It all comes down to where the makers of your chocolate are getting their cocoa. Do they buy from farms that meet current “fair-trade” standards providing their workers with fair wages and safe working conditions? Or do they buy from farms that exploit children?
You may be surprised – I know I was – to learn that chocolate used by Hershey, Mars, and Nestle has been linked to child slave labor. Yes, young kids were used to create the chocolate we’re eating! According to the World Cocoa Foundation, about 70% of the global cocoa supply is produced on the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Although child labor is illegal, Tulane University (Here for more info) found that in 2010 about 1.8 million children and teens are subject to forced labor and enslavement. These children—many under the age of 12—are beaten, battered, and forced to work excruciatingly long hours. They are given little access to education–ultimately, being robbed of their childhood and the possibility of a future. (Click here for Cocoa Facts & Figures and here for the report by the International Labor Rights Forum.)
In 2001, the fight against child labor in the chocolate industry began with the ‘Cocoa Protocol.’ Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (NY) hammered out an initiative that worked to create a system of voluntary certification—slapping a “made without child slavery” label on products produced ethically. Ten years later and not much has changed—there are still children being exploited and farms continue to go unregulated. (Click here to watch Sen. Harkin discuss the ‘Cocoa Protocol’ ten years after its creation and groups that would like to boycott the chocolate industry, a la the outrage against Nestle in the 1980s.) Fortunately, under recent pressure, Hershey made a $10 million pledge to help end child labor on the Ivory Coast and there are MANY advocacy groups fighting for change.
SO, this brings us back to Valentine’s Day. What can YOU do as a supporter of human rights AND chocolate addict?
FIRST—check your labels. If the wrapper doesn’t state: “rainforest alliance certified,” “organic,” or “fair-trade,” you have no way of knowing if you are eating dirty chocolate. Here for a list of fair-trade certified chocolate.
SECOND—While you’re feeding slavery-free chocolate to your loved one this Valentine’s Day, take a moment to sign this petition calling on Hershey to source ALL of their cocoa from child-labor free suppliers. No exceptions. No excuses.
THIRD—Snuggle up and watch this documentary exposing “The Dark Side of Chocolate” to get even more information about what’s going on in the chocolate industry.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, BLOGLAND! Let’s keep up the fight to end human trafficking and child labor…