Chocolates are one of the most common gifts given on Valentine’s Day and their connection to modern slavery is more real than many of us would like to think. The documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation by Brian Woods and Kate Blewett, which exposed the horrors in the cocoa industry in 2000 is still relevant today.
Cocoa is Ivory Coast’s biggest cash crop. Half of the world supply, some 100 million tons, in fact, come from the Ivory Coast. To produce the massive amounts of cocoa, young men, usually from Mali, are enslaved on small Ivory Coast plantations.
In a haunting scene, filmmakers Brian Woods and Kate Blewett meet 19 adolescents who’ve been recently released by the authorities in a raid.”We have never eaten chocolate,” one of them tells Blewett. Later, when she asks what he would say to the millions worldwide who eat chocolate, he replies, “If I had to say something to them it would not be nice words. They enjoy something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them, but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh.”
We don’t have to. Fair trade chocolate aims to eliminate the horror of slavery. The Global Exchange Store and The New American Dream provide fair trade Valentine’s Day ideas and treats that use fair trade products.
For more information on the history of chocolate and its ties to slavery with a list of things you can do to fight back, read Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate? by John Robbins.