The chocolate industry has long profited from slave labour. Cocoa farms have been cited as some of the worst forms of forced labour, child labour and trafficking. All for chocolate. I read a great quote by an activist once, “never voluntarily put someone in a situation of poverty, exploitation, and debt, just to enjoy a cup of coffee.” I think this easily applies to chocolate, as well.
Many people aren’t aware that human trafficking, or slavery, is an issue today. Afterall, didn’t we abolish that long ago? Although history says so, it is approximated that between 12-25 million people are slaves in the 21st Century.
My students are often shocked to discover the prevalence of slavery in the chocolate industry. People’s lives are ruined because of chocolate. I love chocolate, but not that much. The truth is, if the chocolate you’re consuming isn’t labelled fair trade, it’s almost impossible to be sure that the workers who cultivated the cocoa were paid or treated fairly.
So why Hershey’s? Well, most of the major brands surpass Hershey in responsible cocoa sourcing. Last summer, Cadbury declared that its number one selling chocolate bar, Dairy Milk, is now fair trade. Ben & Jerry’s announced that it will only use fair trade products in every one of its flavours. Beyond these, Callebaut, the world’s largest producer of cocoa and chocolate products, now has fair trade formulations of its most popular products. So it’s entirely possible to be profitable and be fair trade.
Valentine’s Day is one of the largest chocolate holidays of the year. But this year, my students and I are sending a message to Hershey. Literally. We’re creating Valentine’s cards, just like they did when they were little. Red construction paper. Glue. Maybe some glitter. And we’re sending them to Hershey’s. Our cards may be cute, but our message is clear. Slavery is not okay.
I’d love for you to join us. Create Valentines with your classroom telling Hershey to purchase fair trade certified cocoa, and send them to Hershey CEO David J. West, at 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033. While they may choose to ignore 25 valentines as an anomaly, imagine what 2,500, or 25,000 Valentine’s cards will say. Especially if they’re from students of all ages and locations.
As Condoleezza Rice stated two days ago, “This is a terrible scourge, this human trafficking that goes on in our country and in our world,” she said. “It is modern slavery, it is no less. The fact is it’s brutal and it’s horrific and it’s widespread. “… It is a great moral cause for our age to end this scourge and it is within our reach to do so.”
I believe it is within our power to do so. It all depends on what we choose to do with our influence.
I find that my students deeply care about issues like this. They’re outraged when they learn what the world is really like. What the adults, who are in charge of this place, have purposely done, turned a blind eye to, or allowed to happen. They want to make a difference. They want to change the world. They want to make their voice heard. Let’s start providing the opportunities.
In all honesty, I think we need to stop thinking of ourselves as individual classrooms or schools spread out across the country, engulfed by our own problems. Instead, we need to begin to think of ourselves, for who we really are: a vast, powerful, global network of educators.
Should we choose to unite, on this issue, or others, our voice will be heard. There is power in numbers. Imagine a worldwide movement of students and teachers coming together to take a stand. Imagine the possibilities.
Picture courtesy of cc flickr: amy.sept