Chocolate Lent and Child Slaves

It was not my original intention to bring up a never-ending fast from slave chocolate as part of Lent. I actually forgot completely that it was Ash Wednesday when I was writing yesterday’s post until right before publishing it.

William Wilberforce

But it is, perhaps, divine intervention that we are talking about chocolate this week of all weeks. So many people give up chocolate for Lent. And yesterday I began a discussion that I hope will continue on giving up all chocolate that is produced by slaves.

For the few people who heard about it, when the news of child slavery and chocolate hit the scene in 2000, there were not a lot of options. Either you could boycott chocolate completely, which could further impoverish producers and would punish farmers who practice ethical  business, or you could continue eating chocolate as normal and try to create a disconnect between your heart and your taste buds.

It is not so anymore. We are in a situation very similar to the British who gave up sugar to raise awareness for the slave trade. We don’t have to give up chocolate, nor should we. We have the opportunity to vote with the almighty dollar, to say we are OUTRAGED and to prove it by demanding with every baked good that we won’t accept our delicacies at the expense of African children.

We can write to our chocolate companies and prove our righteous anger with our money. With fair trade, we can put our dollars toward farmers who are doing the right thing, and make all of the desperate, sad, slave-owning farmers incredibly jealous of the success of their ethical neighbor farms.

You don’t think it works? I’m pretty sure my statistics from the last post are already out-of-date because of all the wonderful things already happening. In the UK, fair trade chocolate flows like water – Nestle UK agreed just weeks ago that all of their Kit Kat Bars will now be fair trade! Why don’t we have that option in the States? Well, according to the chocolate companies, it’s because we don’t want it! Let’s start wanting it.

Kit Kats in Britain are soon to be entirely Fair Trade! Now perfect for any meal!

Chocolate is one of the most popular commodities in the world. Consider the average American, who eats approximately 12 pounds of chocolate a year. That’s nothing, really, compared to the Swiss, who eat 23 pounds per person per year! So it’s no surprise that it can be used for good, just as yesterday we saw how much it can be used for evil.

I know a lot of Christians who claim to love justice. Yesterday I re-watched the film Amazing Grace about the abolitionist movement in Britain under William Wilberforce. This movie has been hailed by Christians – many who surely believe that they would choose to do the same thing if it were them. Well, it is them.

I’ll put to you this task: do some research on your own. Please, first, if you haven’t, read over yesterday’s post and all of the comments. Then, if you still aren’t ready to make a commitment only to buy chocolate made without slavery, educate yourself. I openly admit that Ivory Coast denies the charges.  But Hershey’s and Godiva and Nestle do not deny it. And neither do the pictures.

If you are thinking of giving up anything for Lent, give up slave-produced chocolate. And after Easter, keep giving it up. And take on something much better – the chance to speak with your money and mouth on behalf of the voiceless.

Join in!

Are you up for this charge? Tell us in the comment section, and make sure to answer the (anonymous) poll below!

And be sure to check out the resources section if you feel too overwhelmed – finding the right chocolate companies is easier now than ever!

Further references:

For an amazing example of chocolate production done right, for the benefit of all involved, look at Divine Chocolate. They are a Fair Trade co-op out of West Africa/Great Britain with a transparent supply chain. 45% of the business is owned by the farmers. And in 2007 they opened in the U.S.!

Here is some info from a comment I posted yesterday. For all you bakers out there, it is good news!:

This is great. I’m so glad we have a few folks already on board!

I just visited an amazing resource for us: Slave-Free Chocolate. It has an extensive list of slave-free chocolate companies, including makers of baking chocolate products that are available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s! And it appears Ben and Jerry’s isn’t completely out, if you buy the organic brand, although organic is only safe because Ivory Coast doesn’t really farm organic chocolate. My preference is to stick with Fair Trade for now – that way I know my money is going to the farming communities to help them establish a life where slavery doesn’t have to be considered so necessary. And I won’t have to keep up with all the latest statistics on where the organics farms are to make sure my choices are right.

At the bottom of that site there’s another useful link to a letter campaign meant to question popular chocolate companies’ use of child slavery. But read it carefully! As an example, L.A. Burdick, which I wrote about earlier this week, writes back saying that they only use Ivory Coast chocolate occasionally, and that they have been assured by their farmer in Ivory Coast that they don’t use child slavery. But L.A. Burdick does not say why WE should feel so assured. I say, that doesn’t count! Give me some hard facts! So no more white hot chocolates until there’s complete transparency in their supply chain…

(UPDATE: I have written LA Burdick again, since the first letter from them is dated. We’ll see if anything has changed since they were first contacted!)

6 Responses to “Chocolate Lent and Child Slaves”
  1. Darrell says:

    OK then, no more chocolate but please don’t blog about scotch whiskey or Padron cigars.

  2. Joan Castle says:

    I am ready!

  3. Doug Coe says:

    Well done! Keep up the good work.

  4. Allison says:

    Ugh, Joanna, why do you do this to me? This will be very, very hard (especially thinking about never eating peanut M&Ms), but after reading your initial post yesterday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. So, I’ve decided I’m in. (Although, I must admit that I have a terrible track record when it comes to self-control. I gave up eating meat for Lent this year, and by 2:30pm ON Ash Wednesday, had already broken my fast. Fail.)

    Thanks for all the important info and strong words. I’m really loving your blog. I agree with your father, though — please just don’t mention whiskey.

    • Joanna says:

      Haha! Well, I’m glad to hear it. I can assure you I am staying away from whiskey for now – next week the topic is something no one can possibly boycott. I’ll try not to call for a fast from “fun” or “joy” either…

      You should look up M&M substitutions, and write to Mars Co. making sure they know what you’re thinking. It worked for Kit Kat UK!

  5. Mike Brady says:

    A great idea to support Fairtrade chocolate – but I’d still avoid Nestlé. Its Fairtrade KitKat involves just 1% of its cocoa purchase and it has not delivered on its promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006.

    Fairtrade certification for KitKat costs it 1% of its current Nescafé advertising campaign in the UK. For such a relatively small sum it is gaining undeserved good publicity – and using the Fairtrade mark deliberately to that end.

    Fairtrade KitKat has also been added to the boycott list as part of the campaign to stop Nestlé’s aggressive marketing of baby milk.

    For further information and a leaflet with key facts, see:

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