The Easter Bunny is a Slave?
by Tonya Teichert
It's that time of year again when candies and sweets are the favored treats. We pick up chocolate bunnies, bars filled with cherries or liqueurs and indulge, well, because it’s a holiday time when that is appropriate. But before you head out to find all of those “goodies” to fill your baskets, take a moment to think about what you are really filling them with. Chocolate is something that all of us eat and enjoy. And, if you are anything like me, dark chocolate is a daily part of your diet. And while there are many benefits of chocolate that are good for you, it is not always good for the people who do the work to get it to you.
Like coffee and flowers, the cocoa fields are notorious for using slave labor to fill all of those daily cravings and holiday orders. Sadly, the cocoa business is one of the main portals for child slave labor, as their small hands and bodies enable them to get into those hard to reach places and work rather fast. So, this year, instead of giving that giant chocolate bunny, try screening the film, The Dark Side of Chocolate to get an idea just where your dose of decadence is coming from. The Dark Side of Chocolate is a 2010 film exposing the widespread but strangely unknown-to-the-public use of child slaves in the cocoa industry.
The Dark Side of Chocolate was produced by Danish journalist Miki Mistrati who investigated the use of child labor and trafficked children in chocolate production. Filming began in Germany, where Mistrati asked vendors where their chocolate comes from. They then flew to Mali, where many of the children are from. Next, they explored the Ivory Coast where the cocoa plantations are located. The film ends in Switzerland where both the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Nestle headquarters are located. Much of the footage in this documentary was recorded using a secret camera in a bag Mistrati carried.
In 2012, The Dark Side of Chocolate was nominated for the Adolf Grimme Award. As a result of the documentary, more public attention was focused on child slavery in Africa. A map was made as more research was compiled. Sites like Fair Trade Advocacy are helping individuals who want to help stop child slave labor in West Africa.
Another effort related to the documentary was The Global Cocoa Project (GCP). The GCP is a high-impact poverty alleviation project focused on significantly improving the lives of cocoa farmers worldwide through the supply of equipment and basic needs. The secondary goal is to educate Americans about the realities of the cocoa industry and leverage the power of knowledgeable, concerned consumers to help make cocoa growing a profitable and sustainable occupation for farmers.
The documentary was shown to the International Labor Organization in Switzerland, a UN agency working to stop child labor in industry. Nestle and other companies declined an invitation to watch the film and to answer questions. In response, Mistrati set up a large screen next to Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland, forcing employees to catch a glimpse of child labor in the cocoa industry. As a closing to the film, as the credits roll, we see the local police arrive, to ask why they are showing the film outside Nestle's Head Office in Vevey, Switzerland. The police ask if the film is 'for or against Nestle'. The reply is "It is not against". After checking their documents the policeman says "we turn it off", referring to showing the film. Clearly, almost as soon as they started showing the film, Nestle's executive rang the police. The implication is that Nestle, if not the whole chocolate industry, is very sensitive to this kind of publicity and will use authority to suppress anything which might demoralize its workforce or stigmatize its product. Don’t let them! Remember that it is we, the consumers, that really do have the power to affect change.
You can watch the documentary online, or you can order a copy of the film from the website. If that is too much for you, then at least look for the “fair trade” labels on the chocolate that you buy. At least then you will know that those who have worked in the fields all day, have, in fact, been paid what they are worth.
The Dark Side Of Chocolate Essay
Chocolate. A treat that practically everyone enjoys and loves to taste. A product that brings in over 80 billion dollars a year. (BBC Chocolate: Bitter Truth) With that dollar amount to show, who doesn’t love chocolate? The reality, however, is that chocolate also has a different, darker side. The chocolate industry is causing children to work, not go to school, starve, and endure tremendous pain. “How is this happening without the chocolate companies doing anything about it?” you may ask. That is precisely the question many have today.
Approximately 70% of all cocoa in the world begins in West Africa. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two main producers of cocoa beans. West Africa is an excellent place to have cocoa plantations because of the heat and low rainfall that is critical for the cocoa tree to survive. These cocoa plantations often cover hundreds of miles with thick, lush trees. (BBC Chocolate: Bitter Truth) The bean, originally called ‘cocao’, is grown on a tree that ranges from 13-26 feet high. The bean pod is 4-15 inches long, and it takes 4-5 months to grow. When these pods have ripened, they are opened up and the contents inside are taken out. Inside the pod are many cocoa beans covered in pulp; a gooey substance that surrounds the beans. After removing these, they are dried in the sun for 3-9 days. The pulp is then taken off the beans, and the beans are spread out in the sun to dry completely. Continuing this procedure, the beans are bagged and sent off on a ship to the factories that turn them into delicious chocolate bars.(Dunn, Elton. Page 1)
Chocolate companies have been producing chocolate this way for decades, and planned to do so in the future. However, in 2001, evidence was shown that chocolate companies like Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars were using child slaves to harvest the cocoa beans in West Africa. When the United States government went to Africa to investigate, the results were astounding: an estimated 284,000 children were employed in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria. Of these, 153,000 of the children applied pesticides without any body protection, 64% were under age 14, and the majority of the children used machetes to slice the cocoa pods open. It was found that the children were usually illegally trafficked from Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo, worked 12 hours a day, and endured frequent beatings from their masters. One third had never been to school, and only 34% were currently enrolled in school. (Combating Child Labour) This evidence surprised and angered many, and the public demanded action to stop the child slavery in chocolate. US Representative Eliot Engel proposed a legislative amendment for chocolate companies to end child slavery and to label their products with a ‘slave-free’ logo. After debating, it was finally decided that all the major chocolate companies would be given 4 years to completely erase slavery from their system. All the major corporations met and signed the Harkin Engel Protocol. By...
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