Sweets for the Season? Consider the Source

So Nestlé is wooing vegans with dairy-free versions of coffee creamers, ice creams, and Kit Kat bars. PETA says it’s excited about such products. Yet the very point of veganism, as defined by its originators, is to grow an anti-exploitation movement in “historical continuity with the movement that set free the human slaves.”

What’s the point of Nestlé’s few token vegan labels if the company relies on human trafficking for its cocoa? How can Hershey have the gall to sell their barkTHINS® with fair-trade labels when a rising number of youths are doing dangerous work on cocoa plantations to cater to their company?

Today, 1.56 million children are harvesting beans on cocoa plantations of Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, the origin of more than 70% of the cocoa sold by big brands. Local traditions in which youths move among extended family circles have been exploited to facilitate human trafficking. And the major chocolate sellers are “not merely purchasers of cocoa from Côte D’Ivoire,” states a current lawsuit over chocolate slavery which names Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey. The big chocolare companies, says the lawsuit, are “the architects and defenders” of this degrading system.

Is There a Simple Way to Get Ethically Made Chocolate?

A number of U.S. grocery and drug chains stock chocolate-covered coconut cubes (the ones in the blue bags) from Ocho. While this company is new to me, its website does state:

We officially partner with Fair Trade USA to ensure all of our cocoa was produced according to rigorous fair trade standards that promote sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions, protection of the environment, and strong, transparent supply chains.

It’s interesting to find this, too, in Ocho’s Frequently Asked QuestionsAre monkeys used in the harvesting of the coconut in the OCHO Coconut bar? Our suppliers do not use animals in the harvesting of coconut fruit. That said, not all Ocho items are vegan.

Divine Chocolate is also showing up in the retail chains now. The company has a long history of working with co-op farmers in Ghana. The company has a number of dairy-free offerings. The 85% Dark Chocolate Bar With Turmeric and Ginger is…divine.

When Elegance Matters, Choose a Small-Batch, Artisan Producer.

It’s the gifty time of year, so allow me to talk about an artisan chocolatier whose founder I actually know: Lagusta’s Luscious. Lagusta writes:

We believe the earth is a source of astonishing richness that must be respected, so we use good ingredients that are good to the earth. We believe animals are not on this planet for us to use, so we do not use animal products… We work closely with small farmers and producers in our beloved town of New Paltz, New York and across the country to source truly ethical ingredients.

Peanut Caramel Nougat Bar, by Lagusta’s Luscious

The source of the chocolate itself is República del Cacao, in Ecuador.

If we buy chocolate, it’s incumbent upon us to consider the source. Imports rise in winter months, so now is an excellent time to raise awareness, to shift away from any items sold by the multinationals, and to support businesses that respect our planet’s astonishing richness.

_________________________

This is an abridged version of a longer piece describing the trafficking of youths for chocolate plantations. Read more at CounterPunch.

Photos: Bonbon Assortment and Peanut Caramel Bar With Nougat, courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious.

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