Confessions of a Shopaholic, part 2.

90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced each year. The time for these small mammals and their feathered friends, in their embryonic and fully-developped stages (read: Easter eggs and wee chicks…I’m just trying to sound scientific), as well as many other innovative shapes (Easter chocolate mini-pizza anyone?!) to be bought and eaten is fast approaching.

As you buy eggs and bunnies and whatever else for friends and family members, as you pass the shelves saturated with every kind of chocolate’s Easter range in your grocery store, and as you ponder which part to eat first (ears or feet?!), I’d like to throw something into the mix for you to think about:

Is your Easter bunny a product of slavery?

The sad reality is that some of the companies who will provide our chocolate bunnies this Easter are still using child labour, forced labour and trafficking in their cocoa supply chains. 90 million bunnies. 27 million slaves.

How much does your Easter chocolate really cost? Who is paying?

Slaves are often sent to places like the Ivory Coast, a leading cocoa-producing country, to work in absolutely abysmal conditions. An IHS article in 2006 wrote of the atrocity: ”…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.” (http://ihscslnews.org/view_article.php?id=173)

Note: after this post had been published, a source informed us that since the civil war in the Ivory Coast, the cocoa trade there has dried up, therefore actions concerning unethical cocoa farming should be related mainly to other locations.

This is NOT the story I want behind my Easter bunny. You?

We, as the consumers, have power. Let’s use it.

*Be informed. There are, unfortunately, still companies who have not yet committed to ensuring that all their cocoa products are ethically sourced. Check out this website that allows to search for your favourite food companies and gives you an ‘ethical rating’ to consider as you decide who to buy from: http://www.free2work.org/products?cat=26

Are you an iPhone user? Get the ‘Fairly Local’ app – “a socially-responsible app that helps you track down Fairtrade products in local cafes and stores in your area.”

*Buy from companies who promise ethical sourcing following the information you find. Divine Easter eggs are Fair Trade labelled and offer a lovely range of chocolate. Cadbury’s range is also now Fair Trade. Thornton’s offers a Fair Trade range. Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc… are also now offering customers their own versions of Fair Trade chocolate.

Check this link for more information on Fair Trade Easter chocolate: http://www.easter-eggs.org.uk/fair-trade-easter-eggs/ When you buy, check for either the Fair Trade label or a written commitment to ethical cocoa sourcing.

*Be vocal. Let’s not simply boycot the companies with low ratings: let’s tell the companies why we will not buy their chocolate until they make a change. Today, people are doing just that…

Nestle is currently under fire with activists peppering their Facebook page with the question: What comes first, the children or the egg? as not all of their products are under ethical sourcing policies. http://www.facebook.com/Nestle?sk=wall&filter=1

Hershey’s currently has no cocoa-tracing or worker-protecting policies in place, and 8,220 people have asked that they change this: http://www.change.org/petitions/hershey-raise-the-bar

These initiatives and petitions do work. Amongst many examples, consider this: when consumer pressure was placed on Kit Kat, it became fully ethically sourced: (http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/press_office/press_releases_and_statements/december_2009/kit_kat_gives_cocoa_farmers_in_cte_divoire_a_break.aspx).)

How wonderful it is to know we are heard when we speak out. How immense the responsibility we have as consumers to use our voices to ensure that we are not buying products that directly encourage modern day slavery. It is upto us.

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