Note: we have thus far raised US $610 total to give to TFHT. Please contribute to this number. Any amount makes a difference.
Even though we don’t go to brothels and don’t own our own slaves, in the global economy, none of us are as innocent or as removed from slavery as we’d like to think.
One of the more poignant examples of that is chocolate.
Most of the world’s chocolate is made in West Africa, with 43% of it coming from in the Ivory Coast.
The majority of chocolate workers there are boys below the age of 16. A number of them are trafficked from neighboring countries with promises of good work and high wages. After being sold to plantation owners for around $30 US they are held against their will, working 80 to 100 hours a week. Violence or the threat of violence is omnipresent and they receive no money. One escaped slave, Aly Diabate has testified â€œThe beatings were a part of my life, anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.â€
Escape is rarely an option. One boy from Mali reported “I tried to run away but I was caught â€¦ as punishment they cut my feet and I had to work for weeks while my wounds healed. I stayed in a large room with other Malian children from a neighboring plantation.”
This phenomena was first brought to light by esteemed filmmakers Kate Blewett and Brian Woods in their 2001 television documentary Slavery. In it they claimed that 90% of Ivory Coast cocoa plantations use forced labor. Amistad is not a thing of the past: A ship was found off the coast of West Africa allegedly carrying child slaves bound for cocoa plantations.
|This chocolate worker was scarred from repeated beatings.|
According to Alternet â€œApproximately 286,000 children between the ages of nine and twelve have been reported to work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast alone with as many as 12,000 likely to have arrived in their situation as a result of child trafficking.â€
The most egregious offenders â€”the slave drivers, so to speakâ€”include leading corporations: Hershey, M&M/Mars, Nestle, Cadbury etc, whose biggest priority is giving us the consumers the lowest price, because that’s what we tell them we want.
Led by Senator Thomas Harkin a stink was made about this issue to NestlÃ© in 2001. As a result they promised that by July 2005 they would find a way to certify that their chocolate had not been produced by any underage, indentured, trafficked or coerced labor. That date came and went and no such certification program has been implemented.
The question to ask ourselves is what are we willing to pay to help end human rights abuses, trafficking and slavery? A little more for a bar of chocolate made by a slave free, fair trade certified company maybe? Using our power as consumers has the potential to change the way these companies run and change the lives of children in West Africa, without even getting our hands dirty.
I don’t believe you have to be an extremist to make things happen most of the time. Even if we dramatically cut down on our chocolate consumption from those companies â€“ can I say it â€“ dayeinu. If we write an email telling the companies and we are concerned about slavery and would like to know what they are doing about it â€“ dayeinu. If we inform others â€“ dayeinu, dayeinu.
So when you are eating your chocolate covered macaroons on what is left of this Pesach and enjoying your freedom, don’t forget about those whose put the flavor into your food. The chocolate may taste a little more bittersweet than you imagined.
And please, take a moment to donate a little bit of cash to an organization TFHT, which fights to end slavery.
Below you can find a list of chocolate companies whose product is guaranteed slave free as well as how to contact the major companies to voice your concern, or tell them that you are cutting down or cutting out your consumtion of their product until they stop buying their chocolate from slave plantations. Tell them you want your sweets certified 100% slave free. It actually does make a difference.
If we Jews know how to do anything right it’s complain. Let’s put our talents to good use.
Companies which absolutely don’t use slave labor include:
Clif Bar, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Denman Island Chocolate, Divine, Gardners Candies, Green and Black’s, Kailua Candy Company, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolates, Montezuma’s Chocolates, Newman’s Own Organics, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, Rapunzel Pure Organics and The Endangered Species Chocolate Company.
The Ivory Coast does not currently produce any organic cocoa, so organic chocolates are unlikely to be tainted by slavery.
Voice your complaints!
Write NestlÃ© Here
Write M&M/Mars Here
Write Cadbury Here
Call Hershey’s Toll-Free: 1-800-468-1714
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