I enjoy doing "little things" for my family. I know it would be much easier to head out to the grocery and purchase treats like chocolate chip cookies or brownies - for example - but I would much rather bake the cookies or brownies myself; homemade is always better. My wife and son enjoy them and I certainly enjoy doing it.
So, it was with this in mind that I whipped up a batch of brownies this past Saturday. It was easy enough......I already had all the ingredients I needed to make the brownies and I was able to find a great recipe on hersheys.com. When I told my sister about the delicious brownies I baked, she wanted the recipe.........until I told her from where the recipe originated.
"We're boycotting Hershey's", she told me.
Her reason for the boycott was because of the corporation's decision to shut down it's U.S. operations (particularly in Hershey, PA) and move production to Mexico. Checking snopes.com I found the claim to be "partly true".
As pointed out on snopes, "Boycott the chocolate maker's products if you feel it's the right thing to do, but if you do, do so on the basis of protesting a cut in Hershey's U.S. workforce, not because you think the company has ceased its American operations and shut down all its U.S. plants."
I, for one, will not boycott a company over it's decision to move part, or even all it's production to another country. Even though I feel sorry for anyone losing their job, a company has a responsibility to it's shareholders to maintain a profit. In many cases, business is business and often keeping a plant in the Untied States could be detrimental to the company.
Sadly, I have found an even more pressing reason to boycott Hershey. I'm speaking of the issue of child labor and slavery in the production of cocoa. From laborrights.org,
"Thousands of children in West Africa are forced to labor in the production of cocoa, chocolate’s primary ingredient. The West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is the leading supplier of cocoa, accounting for more than 40% of global production. Low cocoa prices and thus the need for lower labor costs drive farmers to employ children as a means to survive. The US Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under 'the worst forms of child labor,' and that some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement."
Like many, I had been ignorant of the facts. With just minimal effort, the evidence is available for all to see.
Major US chocolate companies like Hershey, M&M/Mars and Nestle are guilty of, at the very least, turning a blind eye to the issue of slavery in West Africa.
Fortunately, I was able to locate chocolate vendors who are certified Fair Trade. It's possible to satisfy one's love of chocolate without having one's money go to those who use slavery as a way to get rich.
One company, deansbeans.com offers organic, fair trade baking cocoa - 12oz for $4.00. That compares to one company (nextag.com) selling 8oz of Hershey's cocoa for $5.75. I'm not sure of the regular price of Hershey's cocoa at places like Publix or Walmart, but deansbeans' price seems reasonable enough that high prices can't be used as an excuse not to buy Fair Trade.
Update: March 24, 2015
Looking at my Google Analytics, I learned today that there has been recent viewing of this post from someone in Boston, MA. That discovering brought me back here to read what I had written nearly 5 years ago.
Major US chocolate companies like Hershey, M&M/Mars and Nestlé are guilty of, at the very least, turning a blind eye to the issue of slavery in West Africa.
I wanted to look into how things may have changed regarding the chocolate companies within those five years.
I'm happy to say that both Nestlé and Hershey have taken positive steps in dealing with the issues concerning exploitation of the cocoa farmers', their families and communities.
Nestlé: Tackling child labour in cocoa farming.
Hershey ‘21St Century Cocoa Plan’.