Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tastes Like Child Slavery

The secret ingredient in that creamy, delicious chocolate bar? The toil and sweat of children in West Africa, forced to work long hours for no pay and little food. Doesn't taste so sweet anymore, does it? Like chocolate, child slavery comes in many colours. But usually brown. Its victims are poor, desperate kids - the most marginalized of society.

A Dutch journalist, Teun (Tony) van de Keuken, hoped to bring awareness to this issue by having himself arrested for eating chocolate two years ago:
Teun van de Keuken, 35, is seeking a jail sentence to raise consumer awareness and force the cocoa and chocolate industry to take tougher measures to stamp out child labor.

"If I am found guilty of this crime, any chocolate consumer can be prosecuted after that. I hope that people would stop buying chocolate and thus hurt the sales of big corporations and make them do something about the problem," van de Keuken said.[...]

"We profit from these people and they get almost nothing in return. As consumers we are also responsible for these atrocities," van de Keuken told Reuters.

Listen to an interview on CBC with van de Keuken explaining everything he's done to try to force Nestle and other companies to stop buying chocolate produced with child labour, including launching his own line of chocolate, creating a movie, trying to get his issue on Oprah, and more. Read this for more information on child slavery in the chocolate industry, and on van de Keuken's work.

Blood Chocolate. Blood Diamonds. Blood Oil. Blood Gold. Are you seeing a pattern? I'll give you a hint: the problem isn't chocolate. It's this whole rotten global corporatism that ensures businesses are rewarded (hooray, stock increase, let's go play golf!) for squeezing as much as they can out of those who actually make the stuff they sell.

UPDATE April 20: Italy is leading the way:
Last year, the Italian government issued a new regulation stating that public authorities should take account of sustainable development when they are issuing calls for tender.

Because schools are required to sell fair trade products in their canteens, it is estimated that this will lead to weekly sales of fair trade bananas and packets of biscuits of almost 300,000 each in 2007-12.


Anonymous said...

I usually like to pretend that I'm socially aware of what's going on in the world but after reading your post I'm now humble in my ignorace. I had no idea child slavery is used to make chocolate-- that's horrible! I hope this Dutch fellow succeeds in getting conviction, it would send a much need message and awareness to the world on this issue.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention -- I suddenly don't feel the urge for that Oh henry bar.

Anonymous said...

I heard about this and was going to post something, so I'm glad you did.

Peter Dodson said...

Don't forget Blood Coffee as well.

At least we are starting to see some great Fair Trade chocolate on the market, but I wouldn't hold my breath that these companies will change. As long as they are making money and consumers remain ignorant (wilfully or not), nothing will change.

Red Jenny said...

Reminds me of that line in the movie Blood Diamond where there's an old man in a destroyed village who says: at least we don't have oil

TomCat said...

Does anyone know of any brands of chocolate that do not use the slave chocolate?

Red Jenny said...

I don't think there's any way to know for sure, but I'd say fair trade is your safest bet.

I sometimes eat Endangered Species chocolate... (they have a delicious bar with blueberries in it) which is "ethically traded" but I don't know if it is Trans Fair certified.

Red Jenny said...

Here's a list of fair trade chocolate brands: