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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Monday, July 7, 2008

My co-workers sometimes make fun of my food choices. This is not offensive, as I fully understand how much most people love to eat meat, poultry and fish. I don’t object directly to those habits other people have, I simply let it be known, diplomatically, that I am a vegetarian, and why.
Meat eaters mostly just don’t get it and I don’t try to brow beat anyone. Often, however, I do have to explain that you can’t be a vegetarian if you eat fish or if you eat chicken. Why some people consider their fish-eating friends to be vegetarians is as much a mystery to me as why it is that so many people can’t seem to drive well on Interstate 95.
But I digress, this is not about poor driving habits, it is about pure joy. Pure vegetarian joy, many of us know, can be found in the substance of chocolate. I need not wax poetic about this, it is a centuries, if not millennia old, habit of mankind to indulge.
But indulgence, it seems, does not come without a price. And by price I don’t mean the cost of a grande Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino® blended coffee with Chocolate Whipped Cream.
What I do mean is the concern that cocoa production in some areas of world comes at the price of forced labor, sometimes by children. Check out various Web sites on the topic and the evidence is there – at least to investigate – that not all is fair (trade) in the love of chocolate wars. Some companies, likewise, go out of their way to assure consumers that they do their best to obtain cocoa from a source where there is no forced, or slave labor, and children are not abused.
As with so many issues, the reality is likely somewhere in the middle.
But along with the growing levels of social consciousness worldwide, there comes cocoa production that says it comes fairly traded – or in fair trade – and that means no child labor allowed and it means that prices paid for the product are supposed to promote sustainability, self sufficiency and environmental standards. I acknowledge that even these notions take hits from some quarters.
Yet, if we are willing to spend $3.50 for a tall and chocolaty coffee drink (fair trade says Starbucks!!) why can’t we also be willing to shell out a little extra for a chocolate bar that is guaranteed to come without the blood, sweat and tears of children attached? I know it does not, but everything we buy should have such a guarantee.
Now back to one of my co-workers. This specific individual does not poke fun at vegetarians – he’s married to one. But what he did take aim at is the notion of fair trade. It is, he posited to me, a practice that people of privilege can enjoy – a construction that belongs to people who think the way they buy chocolate (or coffee?) can make any real change.
I would ask, however, why people of so-called privilege, (or anyone, for that matter as I certainly can’t define what privilege really means) should not be willing to take the small steps that might lead to a stampede?
Who will it hurt to use some of that to help (not subsidize) farmers worldwide that guarantee no child is forced into back breaking labor to harvest the beans that bring us so much pleasure?
I have found fair trade chocolate at Trader Joe’s, at Edge of the Woods and in Newman’s Own Organics chocolate products.
We know we are not going to give up chocolate. But maybe we can start making purchases that are fair from field to feeding time.


Blogger Mike Brady said...

A new report from the International Labor Rights Forum exposes the lack of action from chocolate companies on child slavery in the cocoa supply chain. I've written about this on my personal blog at:

July 08, 2008 12:20 AM 
Blogger Helen Bennett Harvey said...

Thanks so much for adding to this issue Mike.

July 08, 2008 6:45 PM 

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