“Happy Halloween” as a Journey
A few years ago, I found out much of our chocolate has a connection to human trafficking in West Africa. It was a hard thing to discover, and I still struggle with whether or not I believe all the claims I’ve read.
But I did a lot of research on the subject, and found out journalists who’d traveled to Ivory Coast to report on the problem had wound up dead. I saw a documentary showing teary-eyed, confused boys being moved by bus across national borders to work the cacao farms. And I started to believe it’s possible we’re being lied to about our sweets.
As I studied more on human trafficking and how our consumerism feeds it around the world, it led me to get involved with Stop Modern Slavery and eventually help new members get involved as well. I began to blog about the issue more, and try to raise awareness when I could.
On Halloween, I handed out (really good) slave-free chocolate and gave a little info to the parents about what was so great about it. You can read more about that project here.
And now it’s three years later. Hershey’s made some promises—although they read like campaign stump speeches. Nestlé’s made some promises too, which seem more sincere since they’re connected to an actual investigative group. The market across the street from us just announced they’ll be selling Divine Chocolate, which is slave-free and co-owned by cacao farmers. Readers still write me about the problem, looking for more info or wanting to know if certain companies have changed their tune yet.
The changes are very small, but they tell me something about the direction in which we’re headed. It’s a slow and beautiful evolution. We’re becoming more and more the kind of people who care about how our food is made, and what we require of the people and land that provide it to us.
For me, what started as a concern over the harvesting of cacao pods has led to concern over cotton, and brick, and tomatoes, and so many other products brought to us cheaply by slavery. And as I change, and the people around me change, big companies change too.
So this Halloween, I’m reflecting on what compassion can do to market forces, and what market forces can do to corporate will. Next week, when I walk through Rite Aid and see piles of cheap chocolate selling for pennies, I won’t let it get me down. I won’t dwell on the tragedy that slavery is used to make products we don’t even need, things we won’t even buy.
I will focus instead on the steps we’ve made forward, and on how it’s becoming more acceptable every day to demand better options for ourselves and for the world around us.
(Photo by John Nyberg)