A decade ago I screened the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, which marked what I call my “official” entry into intentional activism and scholarship for social justice. The documentary was a follow up to the chocolate industry’s fight against a “slave free” label requirement, promising instead to regulate itself in ending the use of forced child labor in cocoa production in 2001. Needless to day, Hershey’s, Nestle, Cargill, et. al did not voluntarily stop this very lucrative business practice.
Nearly a decade later when the filmmakers travelled to the Ivory Coast (where 38% of all the world’s cocoa comes from), they found several children working on cocoa plantations, many of whom had been trafficked.
Chocolate corporations promised again to end the use of child labor by 2008, then pushed the deadline again to 2010, and then yet again to 2020. Twenty years of agreements, alliances, reports, reaffirmations, and commitments (the corporate version of “thoughts and prayers”), and their $50 billion-a-year industry continues to delay and exploit trafficked children in 2020.
I try to raise awareness of these issues around major chocolate-eating holidays in my country—Valentine’s Day and Halloween—through film screenings, discussions, and blogging in the hopes that when people know better, they’ll do better and choose a less oppressive candy to indulge in. My friends over at Food Empowerment Project have put together an ethical Chocolate List of companies they have researched that offer chocolate products made without exploitation. I haven’t been as actively involved in labor rights work as I was then, but I continue to consume chocolate goods made without exploiting children, adults, or animals.