This Valentine's Day, Do You Know Where Your Chocolate Comes From?
Yesterday I received my email copy of ePistle, Evangelicals for Social Action’s weekly electronic communication. This article discussing the situation in the Ivory Coast and the former president Laurent Gbagbo immediately caught my attention:
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“The Ivory Coast is on the brink of civil war, and chocolate companies could play a critical role in saving lives and bringing peace.
In November, former President Laurent Gbagbo lost democratic elections but is clinging to power despite united international pressure, ruling through his brutal army that has killed hundreds. Cocoa is the country’s largest export, and if chocolate companies stop doing business with Gbagbo now, his cash supply to the army could dry up — and he could be forced to step down.
This situation could spiral into all-out war within days. Let’s flood our favorite brands with messages to suspend trade with Gbagbo now and commit to working only with the legitimate government.”
However, it occurs to me that we need to do is more than send a short message of protest. We need to protest with our feet too — or maybe I should say with our mouths? Are you planning to buy chocolates for Valentine’s Day this year? If so, where are you planning to buy them from? Are you supporting conflict chocolate (yes, conflict chocolate, like conflict diamonds, but with more caffeine)? If we only buy chocolates that are produced by fair trade and that do not support civil conflict then I suspect it will create even more reaction than our sending of protest letters.
Cadbury’s in the UK already uses only fair trade chocolate for its milk chocolate bars, but there has not been enough outrage here in the United States for them to consider making the same change. Hersheys has made no strides in this direction at all. So Valentine’s Day is a great time to educate ourselves and others about the dark side of chocolate and how buying fair trade makes a difference.
And if you are afraid that you will need to cut back on your chocolate consumption, think again. There are lots of companies out there that produce high quality fair trade chocolate. Divine chocolate is truly divine and Theo chocolates produced in Seattle, Washington are a real treat.
Christine Sine is executive director of Mustard Seed Associates and author of several books including GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life. She describes herself as a contemplative activist encouraging a way of life that interweaves spiritual practices with concern for justice and environmentalism. She blogs at GodSpace.