Santa’s slaves…

Chocolate. Something you and I will probably enjoy this Christmas. Maybe more than we usually do. Chocolate advent calendars, hot chocolate, chocolate stocking-fillers, chocolates in a bowl in your hallway, chocolates to say thank-you or goodbye, chocolate in front of the TV…

Indulgent. Delicious. Luxury. Relaxing. Gifts.

NOT – Labour. Tears. Pain. Sleep-deprivation. Death.

Sadly, our reality is simply not…realistic. The cost of our luxury is the lives of children and adults caught in forced labour, of which the cocoa industry highly is a regular customer.

Slaves are often sent to the Ivory Coast, a leading cocoa-producing country, to work in absolutely abysmal conditions. ”…children, usually 12-to-14-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.”

“The beatings were a part of my life,” Aly Diabate, a freed slave, told reporters. “Anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.”

This life is unimaginable to most of us. How could this happen? The truth is, it could have been you. Your child. Your brother. Your cousin. Your friend. Trapped in this life.

Anti-trafficking campaigns have been working tirelessly to stop the slave trade and many have zoomed in on the cocoa trade. STOP THE TRAFFIK is one of these; check out http://www.stopthetraffik.org for press releases and updates on their campaigns. On the ‘hit list’ are many of the world’s leading chocolate-producing companies. There are signs of improvement – Hershey’s has recently been in the news for their involvement in child labour and has promised to investigate and make changes; this does, however, remain to be seen. In December 2009, Nestle announced that Kit Kats would be slavery-free from January 2010. Cadbury launched its Fair Trade Dairy Milk in 2009 and whilst it has now been taken over by Kraft, slavery-free intentions are still expressed.

This leaves you and I in a position of power. Let’s NOT buy into the slave trade. It is fairly impossible to lay out for you a list of ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ chocolate products. However, brands standing up for fair trade certainly make themselves known. Actively seek out brands which ensure you that their product is slavery-free. You may need to rethink your Christmas shopping list…a few more Kit Kats perhaps?

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