Monday, August 18, 2008

Chocolate - the biggest vice of all????

I need to admit here and now that my single biggest vice is chocolate. I LOVE it, and I love that I love it. And I know that it can be bad for the waistline, bad for the skin...blah blah blah....but I had never really thought of it as being bad for my karma. Let me explain...

I recently heard the tail end of a radio show that talked about general exploitation in the cocoa industry, and there was mention that the cheap brands of chocolate were the worst offenders. It was at that point I started only buying Green and Black's chocolate for my own scoffing (and a nice reason to justify the expense of a nicer chocolate than Cadburys), but I still bought Freddo Frogs for the kids as special treats, and didn't think much more of it.

Then yesterday I read a post from one of my favourite blogs - Great Stories. It is one of the few non-crafty blogs I love to read regularly. And the post has been playing on my mind. Over and over actually. It is both a review of the book Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet by Carol Off, a former war correspondent. It's also a discussion of the power of a story to change your habits – or at least your mindset – as a consumer. Well I think we could add to that the power of a blog to change habits and mindsets too, as you will see.

While reading Paula's post, I discovered that the exploitation I'd heard only briefly about on the radio actually involves child slavery and human trafficking....and the idea that my kids' chocolate covered grins can come at the expense of the lives of children across the world, makes me feel sick. I've spent the last two days trying to find out what I can do, and what I can actually eat without feeling nauseous from guilt. And the Dont Trade Lives website says that boycotting your favourite chocolate won't help either - it will just hurt poor farming families. So what to do???? It's been doing my head in. So anyway, I've decided this is what I can do:

1. I have signed the online petition which will send a message to the Australian chocolate industry that I want them to make a genuine attempt to tackle the root causes of child labour in cocoa production.

2. I will purchase organic and/or fair trade chocolate wherever possible, but will let my kids still have the occasional cheapo chocolate (ie. Freddo Frogs) and hope I am somehow walking that middle ground between not wholeheartedly supporting a disgusting industry, but not hurting innocent farmers either.

So Paula, when you read this, I guess I am answering your question of whether a story can change you habits as a consumer. Yes indeed - even a story about a story can do it. And this is where my habits change....thank-you.

*pic above by Jeff Carlson


Dee said...

Its awful isn't it :(

Elaine over and Consumption Rebellion has done a lot of research into slave free chocolate

Its not just chocolate either, its cocoa too .. anything that has cocoa beans in it. Hot chocolate ..

Paula Weston said...


Thank you for such a considered, intelligent and compassionate response to my post (although the credit for prompting your thoughts goes to Carol Off - who by the way is a guest speaker at the Brisbane Writer's Festival next month ... and yes, I'm going to hear her speak!)

I love that you didn't just read it, go "oh, that's terrible" and then simply went on with life. I love that you researched the topic, made decisions and thought about what it means to be a consumer.

I am by no means a perfect consumer either, but I like to know how I fit into the world, and try where possible to minimise my negative impact on it where I can.

I'm going to go look at that petition now. Thanks for the suggestion.

JustJess said...

Hey Bec, great post - food for thought indeed. I too learned of this through Eilleen at Consumption Rebellion (and a Canberran!). She has lists of fair trade brands and where you can buy them on her blog. Of the Green and Black's, only the Mayan Gold is actually fair trade. Small print....

Ali said...

thanks Bec, I really had no idea of the ramifications of my scoffing of chocolate! Thank you for keeping me informed, spreading the 'word' and giving me moral dilemma to tackle!

potty mouth mama said...

Hey - great post. I learnt about this at Easter time (at the height of chocolate mania!?). It's sickening isn't it? Thanks for the great links - I'm off to check them out now.

Rachel said...

This is a great post - thanks for the info!

Hot Fudge said...

I had heard about this before, and it makes me so frustrated and angry. They could be my own grandchildren. Good on you for taking some sort of action. But I do love chocolate!

Levin (and Emily) said...

thanks - i will head over and sign the petition.

Hey Harriet said...

Interesting post. I purchase Fair Trade coffee but hadn't even thought of chocolate. I'll stock up on 'good' choc next time I do my Oxfam coffee run :)