Wednesday, March 2, 2016

For The Love Of Chocolate (For The Love Of Justice)

Have I told you about how much I love chocolate?  I mean loooooovvvveeee!

Chocolate is like manna from heaven to me.

Whoever created the Reese Cup should be sainted in my mind.  (The same can't be said for the person who created "Fun Size" chocolate bars. There's nothing fun about that tiny candy bar. It's just enough to make you only want more).

I can't recall a time in my life when I didn't love chocolate. I could write epic poems of love on the subject.

Need proof there's a God? Chocolate!  And clearly a loving God at that, I mean, He created cocoa that makes chocolate. 

And you don't need a holiday to buy chocolate, though a heat-shaped box of them shows someone how much you love them, right?  Easter's at the end of this month and baskets will be full of chocolate eggs and bunnies (the latter stirs up the debate on where you should begin eating the chocolate bunny - though we all know, deep down, that you should start with the long ears. I mean, that's a given). 

Yet I'm confronted with an alarming truth about one of my favorite things to eat: most chocolate is born on the backs of human slavery. And that slave labor is predominantly children. All of the major chocolate companies (Hershey's, Nestle, Godiva) are guilty of this and are knowingly so.

But am I any less guilty for knowing this and continuing to buy their product?

Chocolate is a $90 billion dollar industry, so it's clear that I'm not the only one who loves chocolate. But did you know that cocoa farmers make less than $2 a day? That puts them way below the poverty line. Because of this, the farmers rely heavily on slave labor, especially children. The ages of the children are ten and up, but there are some as young as 5 years old. Many of these kids are sold into slavery by their extremely poor families or they are kidnapped. How much are they sold for? Less than $30. And it has only gotten worse in the last few years; in fact, there has been a 51% increase in child slave labor. 

70% of chocolate comes from West Africa. Cocoa is its major trade export. 90 million people in this area depend on agriculture for their livelihood. This is a part of the country that is torn by war and poverty. Major chocolate companies are willingly taking advantage of this.

Humanitarian organizations have investigated this industry. They have found that the children work from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. They are routinely beaten (stripped naked and tied up before they are beaten with belts, the butt of guns, fists), and are locked in sheds at night with only a tin cup to urinate in. Many of these children are forced to work without pay. 

Look closely at these photographs.

These are not statistics. They are children. Flesh and blood children with names and faces. Sold or torn from their families. They suffer abuse and neglect. 

If you are a parent or grandparent just picture your children or grandchildren being forced into human trafficking and slavery.  

The sweetness of the chocolate is removed when I stop to consider the harsh realities of how that chocolate got here. While my children enjoy candy bars, kids in other parts of the world are bearing the stripes of scars on their bodies from collapsing from exhaustion while harvesting the cocoa beans. As I researched all of this, I began to ask: How bitter is that chocolate now?

And I had to ask myself: Do I love chocolate more than I do justice?

In Judaism they have a word "tzedakah" which means "justice" or "righteousness." It's used throughout the Old and New Testament. In fact, Sodom was destroyed because of its neglect of the poor as Ezekiel 16:49 says that the city ". . . had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy . . ." The prophets warn time and time again about the punishment that will fall on a nation that takes advantage of the poor for their own gain, of luxury that comes on the backs of the oppressed. We are called to "tikkun olam" or "repairing of the world." This is what Jesus is referencing by saying "on earth as it is in heaven." It's why the prophet Isaiah says, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" If we do not, we mock our Maker. 

One of the first major chocolate companies to ensure that their chocolate is Fair Trade certified is the U.K. company Cadbury Dairy Milk. They have committed to ending force child labor in West Africa. Mars has also begun to work with Fair Trade International.

Despite having signed an agreement to do so in 2000, Hershey has yet taken the steps to do so.

Is this . . .

. . . worth this?

Please think about this when you are at the store. The only way we are going to change this situation is to boycott any chocolate company that relies on slave labor for their cocoa beans. This means we need to stop buying their chocolate and research companies who deal in fair trade labor. This may cost us more, but look at what chocolate is costing these children. As one of my heroes, William Wilberforce once said, "You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know." 

In this year of biblical Jubilee, should we not do as God has called us to proclaim liberty and freedom to the oppressed?  

We need to eat ethically so that we don't perpetuate the exploitation of children.

Let your voices be heard for these voiceless children. Our family is.

Please share this blog so that others might know.

To find out more about ethical companies, go to:

Another good website to learn more about this issue is:

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