What mom wouldn’t love to receive some sweet chocolate treats on this Mother’s Day? How about the mom who knows that these exquisite chocolates are made from cocoa being harvested by children who are forced to work in the cocoa jungle and in some cases sold into slavery? Could a mother who has been informed about the facts of the cocoa industry, a mother who knows that 200,000 children are being forced to work on cocoa farms in west Africa—long days, dangerous work, toxic sprays, gruelling labour—could a mother who knows the facts really enjoy the chocolate these poor children have helped produce?
Be assured unless you’ve purchased certified FairTrade chocolate for your mother, children have been abused in the production of the cocoa from which that chocolate has been made, whether it’s from Ganong Bros or Hershey’s. The chocolate industry excels in keeping this information secret, just as the clothing industry has kept secrets, some of which became public in the last couple weeks. After the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 300 people on April 24th, we’ve become concerned about these clothing factories and the working conditions in them, but have we really become concerned enough to demand change? Loblaw’s Joe Fresh is compensating victims’ families and has resolved to ensure safer working conditions in Bangladeshi factories in the future. What about the other clothing retailers? Silence. Eighteen months before this tragedy, a fire in a Bangladesh textile factory killed 112 people. Walmart considered ensuring safer factories by doing regular inspections, but concluded that such inspections “could ultimately lead to higher costs for Walmart and higher prices for our customers. This would not be in the best interests of Walmart’s shareholders and customers and would place Walmart at a competitive disadvantage” (Financial Post). Unfortunately, it would seem that we would rather let these companies keep their secrets because, after all, we love falling prices at Walmart and chocolate bars that cost less than a dollar.
We need mothers and others to stand up to the chocolate makers and say no more child abuse, unfair and unsafe child labour and child slavery. Surely our moral conscious can’t let us ignore the plight of 200,000 children in west Africa. Buying FairTrade chocolate will help, but the whole industry needs to change. FairTrade shouldn’t be a label on a select few chocolate bars, it should obviously be the norm, but today in Canada only one regular confectionary chocolate bar is certified FairTrade. Cadbury Dairy Milk is the only FairTrade chocolate bar, and it’s only the original Cadbury Dairy Milk bar, none of the specially flavoured ones. Every Kit Kat and Hershey’s bar has been produced by children doing things no mother would ever imagine their own children doing. Sobering thoughts for Mother’s Day, but it’s pretty important that we actually become aware of the truth if anything is going to change.
Notes: For documentation of claims about chocolate made in this blog posting, please read my previous post “The children producing the cocoa never taste the chocolate” which includes a clip for an outstanding video documentary. My regrets that I am not better informed about the clothing and textiles industry. I just saw in the news this week how we become so concerned in the midst of tragedy but so quick to forget when shopping for low prices—so parallel to my findings in cocoa production and chocolate sales.