Nov 15, 2007

Boycotting chocolate? Just about!

I love chocolate. If I were a poet, I'd write an ode to it, but since I'm not, let me just say that I have tried to stop eating it but never succeeded for long. Because of chocolate, I understand - at least a little - what it's like to be a smoker trying to give up cigarettes. I know chocolate is harmful to my health, especially in the quantities that I consume over the course of a day, week, month, year. It's certainly part of the reason why I have some pounds to lose. But even knowing that it would be better for my health hasn't been motivation enough for me to stop eating it.

Earlier today, though, I read Adrienne's post about the connection between chocolate and child slavery at Baby Toolkit. And I'm appalled to discover that my chocolate addiction has been facilitating child slavery in Africa.

The remedy? Why, a boycott, of course! Adrienne's asking that people avoid chocolate gifts this holiday season. So I hereby pledge to buy only fair-trade chocolate products from now on (she says those are untainted). Fortunately, Green LA Girl recently directed me to a fair trade chocolate gift basket that I'll be sending to my chocolate-loving friend.

I also promised Adrienne that I will try to get my sons' daycare to terminate their See's Candies fund raisers that are held every Easter/Passover and Christmas/Hanukkah season. I know there are other fund-raising options out there because we've discussed them in the past, so we should be able to find something more compatible with our school's goals.

I'm not giving up chocolate completely, but I am going to do my part to reduce child slavery. Are you?


Anonymous said...

I'm in! Wow, that is some story from Baby Toolkit. Appalling. This is something I can stick to, now I just have to talk my wife into it, as she is a big chocolate fan.

BeachNerd said...

I am doing some research into this, as I had not heard of it. Apparently the large corporations are trying to do something about it, so far I found:


I hope they are taking steps to improve.

Anonymous said...

If your read the Baby Toolkit post, you'll see that there is still no change and that the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (whose two largest members include Hersheys and Nestle) backed the Harken-Engle protocols (a bill meant to deflect legislation that would require "slavery free" labeling on chocolate). The H-E protocols were supposed to end slavery in this region by 2005 (4 years after the problem came to light in the US... the stigma of slavery free labeling missing from their chocolate would have ended it a lot faster).

It was a pure PR move meant to deflect attention.

It was effective.

The H-E protocols failed as of 2005 when the CMA (representing these companies) acknowledged that they had not met the original goals and asked for (and received) a three year extension and a significantly scaled back goal. Basically they wanted more time to not actually end the slavery.

I wouldn't say that research is thorough enough if the only evidence is the PR from the manufacturers.

Look at any watch dog group including respected organizations like Save the Children and the Salvation Army's anti-slavery unit and they say that the problem persists to this day.

I urge you to not be satisfied with these statements and would caution that "hoping" doesn't remove responsibility.

Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation, I've found that fairtrade chocolate usually tastes excellent. Over here, I can buy it in Lidl / Aldi type stores, where it is also inexpensive.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard about this before! I'm going over to Baby Toolkit to read more about it.

Thank you for submitting this post to the Carnival of Family Life. It will be included in the next edition scheduled for Nov 19th at An Island Life.

Jon said...

Hmm, I'm sure this is a good intention but I wonder if it will really help. It seems like much of the problem is that these farmers don't make enough money to pay a normal wage. By boycotting them, they make less money, which means...

Anonymous said...


Are you effectively advocating to continue the slavery inherent in the production of commodity chocolate?

The farmers don't make enough money because the Chocolate Producers don't set standards of pay and worker protection. It is possible to do this as Fair Trade Organizations have proven.

American's spend 13 billion dollars on chocolate a year (in 2001).

This doesn't filter back to the farmers.

The money is there, the CMA's members are happy to pocket the profits and let the status quo remain in place under the (I assume correct if you and beachnerd are any indicators) assumption that consumers won't do anything (such as boycott them) to insist on better treatment of the workers that produce their primary goods.

It's not like chocolate is a necessity.

It's a luxury item.

Boycotting is the only way to send a message to commodity chocolate producers that we don't stand for child slavery and force them (and they have tremendous economic power and influence) to adopt standards (already successfully implemented by Fair Trade Organizations) that would stop child exploitation.

Beyond that, small scale economic boycotts of various goods made under poor working conditions around the world with the goal and imported into the US with the sole goal of showcasing of the problems have effected change in worker conditions around the world.

It's not perfect, but it is getting better. As the largest consuming country in the world, I believe that it is our moral imperative to insist on the fair and just treatment of the workers that produce those goods.

The ONLY reason that chocolate producers do not take measures to combat the wide spread child exploitation that goes into the production of their primary products is that doing so hurts their bottom line.

It is a money game.

Boycotts and sanctions work as a means of affecting social change through economic pressure. See the Civil Rights Movement in the US, economic sanctions against South Africa that helped end Apartheid, and Ghandi's Salt March and boycott of British made goods that helped India gain its independence from th British Empire.

My personal wish is that the US would require "Slave Free" labeling on all chocolate that was not produced in whole or part through slavery and "Produced by Slave Labor" for those products that were produced in whole or part though slavery.

I guarantee that this would end the problem overnight.

I have called for my Representatives in government to take this action. In addition, I boycott chocolate and encourage others that I know to do the same or only buy from Fair Trade sources.

What are you going to do?

Anonymous said...

Boycott *all* african products.