Bittersweet Halloween Chocolate

Young child laborer processing cocoa beans
The Minister of Commerce in Cote D’Ivoire says children like him are “on vacation”.

OK, so I lied about not posting frequently. I want to make this post before it’s no longer relevant.

So, why bitter chocolate? If you didn’t already know, you now know that most of the world’s cocoa is produced by child and slave labor. Even more disturbing is the chocolate industry’s continued inaction to make any concerted efforts. Back in 2001, under the threat of legislation, the largest players in cocoa signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, basically stating they would voluntarily regulate themselves. In 2010, the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolat revealed that conditions on cocoa plantations have not changed in the least.

The Thursday before Halloween, I held a screening of documentary on my campus. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should: it’s only 45 minutes long and you can get the DVD for a $3 (or more) donation from the International Labor Rights Forum. You could even set up a screening yourself. ILRF has created a very helpful, step-by-step toolkit to make planning for an event successful. I had nearly 60 people in attendance (including local news) and got people to sign a petition to Hershey asking them to Raise the Bar on ethical cocoa sourcing. I also raised money from Reverse Trick-or-Treating kits that a few people took to spread the word on the streets.

Chocolate is a luxury; there is no justifiable rationale for anyone to continue to purchase conventional, slave-produced cocoa products. A few companies have made efforts to eliminate the use of slave labor in their chocolate. This is a good list of companies who are fair trade/slave-free and/or organic. Unfortunately, as the past decade has shown, the cocoa industry as a whole has little incentive to change on its own. Change must be ushered in by their consumers—with their dollars.

4 thoughts on “Bittersweet Halloween Chocolate

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  1. I think it’s so cool that you did this and got so many people to come! I did something similar concerning the oil situation in the Niger Delta and didn’t get nearly as many people to come. A step-by-step toolkit would have been very helpful. How did people respond to the viewing?

    I’m so glad that you are helping to bring awareness to the chocolate slavery situation. I first heard about this issue from “Slavery: A Global Investigation”:

    I have to say though that sometimes I wish all these farmers that currently sell cash crops to Westerners would just convert to making food crops for their own countrymen. I know it’s not that simple but that’s often how I feel.


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