Friday, March 30

Bitter Taste

"Five years ago Britain's chocolate manufacturers promised to wipe out dangerous child labour in the farming of cocoa. A BBC investigation into the industry in Ivory Coast has uncovered evidence of continued abuse - with children being kept out of school and forced to work with little or no pay.
Humphrey Hawksley reports from the Ivory Coast - and we'll be interviewing the chocolate manufacturers' representative live, on tonight's programme." - taken from BBC Newsnight website.

Stella and I often discuss that reading the paper and watching programmes like Newsnight on a regular basis is not necessarily a good idea if you have a punitive conscious or care about the world and the people who live in it.
Last night I watched Newsnight - There was a report from the Ivory Coast where most of the cocoa that becomes chocolate is grown. It was so sad to see how the poor farmers try and eek out a living, and so many of their children are kept away from school to help with the gathering of the cocoa beans. They came across a young boy and you could see the distress and despair in his eyes. It was so, so sad. Its Easter soon and I thought about all the chocolate that is about to be consumed and the millions of pounds that will be spent and yet the people who grow it live in poverty. I know I can buy fair-trade chocolate such as Green and Black or Devine, but that is just a spit in the ocean. It’s very difficult to know what an individual like me can do to make any difference. It’s not just chocolate, even in this country look what has happened to farmers? There is so much imbalance and it makes me unhappy thinking about it.
Bit of a miserable bitch today aren’t I?
I don’t have a lot of time for people who are obsessed with cheap food – it’s cheap because the producers are screwed and it isn’t only the animals who suffer, people suffer. I don’t want to be judgemental, but of course I am being just that. I’m not for one moment criticising a poor family on benefits or low income who don’t have any other option to buy cheap if they want to feed their family, but I guess I am criticising those who give no regard to the consequences of their choices.
I do believe there has to be a middle ground - it's great wanting to be organic, and support fairtrade but for all the millions of people who dont' give a single thought to where food comes from or whether the chicken that cost £1.99 suffered I do think there needs to be an affordable alternative.
What do you think?
How can we make the world a kinder place to live in?
I am putting my soap box away now.


  1. How do you move away from the idea that cheap food is a right? It is a problem isn't it? There is plenty written on the subject - Hugh FW on using cheap cuts, Rose Prince on getting 6 meals from a chicken - but it is all read by people like me - the middle class foody - who get a kick out of boiling up pigs' heads to make brawn.
    I think that as regards chocolate the Fair Trade movement is a good thing - fair trade coffee is now much more mainstream and readily available. This has been great as it means that council offices etc. have been able to make a political statement through their coffee buying and that impinges into general consciousness.
    Chocolate (and my bugbear cut flowers) are treats, something you give people to show that you care. It is worse somehow that these very emotional products are mired in expoitation.
    One step at a time is what we have to do I suppose, but yes I get very frustrated when faced by it all.

  2. Hi - I was intrigued by your comment at Broacante and thought I'd take a look at your blog. I'm glad I did! I really like it - it's like the proverbial breath of fresh air.

    As to what can we do - we can all start with doing the little things. Organic meat is expensive so I compensate by eating less meat. I grow my own vegetables, I planted blueberry bushes, blackberry bushes and strawberries. When I plant a tree I usually plant a fruit tree. Even people with just balconies can grow some of their own food. You don't have to buy cheap food. There are so many little things we can all do.

    As to chocolate, well, I had no idea this was going on. And I consider myself pretty savvy about these types of issues! All anyone talks about is coffee (at least in the US).

    Anyway, I'll be back!

  3. Anonymous2:55 PM

    I too have never forgotten that dodo. Your heart is large. Love The working neighbour.

  4. Love your soap box days, Gigibird! And you always bring to light important issues! (We do sell Fair Trade chocolates at our shop I am pleased to say.) So many consumers are unaware of all these issues, and if brought to light, I do think the world would be changing for the better, even if by baby steps!

  5. Great post and I am glad to see that you are spreading the word about child labor in the chocolate industry. I work at the International Labor Rights Fund ( in the US and we currently have a cocoa campaign and a lawsuit against Nestle, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland for their use of child labor.

    I encourage you to check out our website and also our friends Stop the Traffik in the EU who are working on a similar campaign over there.

    You can check out my blog entry about the recent BBC report here:
    child_labor_on_.html. There are links there to ways you can take action, such as by sending e-mails to chocolate companies telling them to stop child labor -- that is one way to help address this problem on a broader level.

    Thanks again and I hope you are well!

    -Tim Newman
    Campaigns Assistant
    International Labor Rights Fund

  6. Hi, i have been on a similar soap box recently regarding the cocoa bean, Heaven and Earth did a story on child labour and the gathering of cocoa beans, these children did not even know what chocolate tasted like or that children of the same age bought and ate this on a daily basis in other parts of the world. This child had been beaten down one side of his upper body and said he would like other children to think of him when they eat cocoa in future, because he felt they were eating a little bit of him..............earthly life does appear so unjust, but i am sure if enough of us stuck to our guns and did the ethical fair trade thing! you know what i mean! we could make a difference, however small and also sending lots and lots of good healing energy on a daily basis to all out there that need it, has got to be a good thing.....So should you wish to stand for P.M i am right behind you girl.......take care stephne X

  7. Lynn - I saw your comment on Brocante. have your figures really plummeted? People always amaze me, I think that you've got MUCH more interesting.
    I'm here every day! (and that is only the case with 2 or 3 other blogs)

  8. I'm glad that most of you know about the chocolate industry and those of you who didn't do now:)
    It's worth looking at the links Tim Newman left in the comments (how did he come across me?) as I do plan to send a letter each month to Cadbury's.
    As Jane said headway has been made with coffee so there is a way forward with cocoa beans.
    Buying anything seems to be a mine field these days but I think it is possible to be informed without having to give your heart and soul over to political movements - just reading a decent daily paper is a good way of discovering what's happening in the world

    Jane - my figures have halved - but I've always prefered quality over quantity so I don't mind - I am flattered to be on your daily visits - thank you:)

  9. I took this post as a bit of a push to discuss the fair trade chocolate issue with my daughters - Katie (6) plaedged immediately to only eat fair trade from now on - but I'm sure she won't - Zoe (9) who is much more politically aware and mature is considering it in a very painful adolescenty way(Magnum icecreams seem to be the sticking point).
    An interesting family discussion! So thank you.

  10. Bless Kate and Zoe for being so ethical, despite the lure of the Magnum.
    I thought if a character on Neighbours or another soap had a chocolate conscious lots of young people would be asking questions.
    You're a good mum to discuss this with them; exploitation - a childs view.

  11. I too really like your soapbox days. I hate to admit that I really didn't know so much about the chocolate industry. It seems that the coffee industry is the thing we're made to be more aware of. Having said that I do try to buy Green and blacks more than any other chocolate.I guess we all have to do our own little bit and hope that starts to make a difference but it's all quite madening and depressing.

  12. Gigibird... just checked our local coffee bean roasters (whose coffee we sell), and they, too, are Fair Trade suppliers. We have more Fair Trade items in our shop than I realized. =)


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