Did you know that The Ivory Coast of Africa, which produces an estimated 50% of the world's cocoa, uses child slaves for labor? According to the September/October 2001 issue of Mothering Magazine, children ages 7-18 are purchased for $1.50 each and sold for up to $350 dollars each into West Africa's agricultural, domestic, and sexual industries, where they remain slaves all their lives.
They work 14 to 18 hour days. "They do not receive wages, adequate medical care, clothing, and food, and are often the recipients of corporeal punishment" (p. 31). Escape attempts often end in death for the escapee. And even if children make it back to their families, they are simply sold again.
When I heard this, I was outraged. I went to all the major chocolate websites: Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft, and others. Nobody had anything on their website about it except Hershey.
I hate to break it to you parents, but the candies your children love are all participating. Nestle, Hershey, Mars, and Kraft, not to mention many others, all seem to be purchasing their chocolate from child slavery sites.
How can you tell from the letters of inquiry you might receive? Of course, none of them come right out and say that they are participating. However, read some of the letters from those who don't. They say things like "We have our own farm which produces the cocoa for our chocolate, and we comply with all the Fair Trade Initiative." The other companies, the big and powerful ones, won't explain where their chocolate is purchased from, and won't come out and say that they purchase from growers who don't participate. They give you a lot of run-around, and say that while they condemn the practice, they can't stop purchasing in bulk from the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association or the International Cocoa Exchange because they want to continue to support the "small family farms" for whom cocoa growing is their livelihood.
So, they are hiding behind a few family farms in an attempt to continue buying from huge plantations that DO use child slavery. The problem is, if they buy from the International Cocoa Exchange, they can't filter out which growers are participating and which aren't. They need to start buying from individual growers who already are abiding by the labor standards. They need to start buying from those small family farms they say they support instead of from huge slave-owning plantations.
The Major Chocolate Manufacturers?
We stand for freedom and unhindered living.
Please write a letter or email the major candy companies
telling them you will not buy their candy until they can assure you
that none of their cocoa comes from farms that use child slavery.
At the present time, they cannot give you that assurance.
It is also important to note that the Mars Company never actually responded
to the inquiries made with a personal email or letter, they simply sent a
press release from the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association.
What Can We Do Instead?
Halloween is coming up. Some of you may not participate in it, but some of you may.
What can we do if we cannot give out chocolate from these companies?
I started researching non-chocolate candies like Jolly Rancher and Lifesavers, and guess what.... One is made by Kraft and the other by Hershey. So far, I feel pretty sure that
Dum Dum's suckers and Wrigley chewing gum aren't affiliated at all with these companies. So we'll be giving those. One year, instead of candy we gave out boxes of crayons. I think that whatever we give, I am going to attach a note to it explaining why we are not giving out chocolate. I am looking at Halloween this year as a way to get the word out to parents about this injustice. I am attaching a note with my phone number and website address if people want more information. Perhaps you could do the same. And if you are one of those wonderful parents who do not let your kids have candy, or who give organic or naturally sweetened candies, my hat's off to you! Perhaps you could think of something creative to put in their sacks that will help the cause!
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Copyright 2015 Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living