I support GENOCIDE...
I support MURDER...
I support RAPE...
I support SLAVERY...
I support ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION...
I support these things everyday with the purchases I make, whether it is the clothes I wear, the electronics I use, or the food I eat. When I make purchases, I make choices. Often, the choices I make end up supporting things I didn't realize I was supporting. This is the way the corporations want it.
Take, for example, the chocolate you buy for Valentine's Day. There is a good chance it was made by Hershey, Inc. The purchase was made with good intentions and it doesn't get anymore wholesome than Hershey, right? The candy probably came from Hershey Pennsylvania, USA. An all-American town indeed. Now, how could the purchase of such a thing be bad?
Well, the chocolate used to make the candy didn't come from Hershey Pennsylvania. It likely came from West Africa, which produces 70% of the world's cocoa beans used to make chocolate. More specifically, the cocoa beans probably came from Cote D'Ivoire, which exports nearly half of the cocoa beans used to make the world's chocolate.
Cote D'Ivoire is a small country with lush countryside that could easily provide plenty of food for it's people. Unfortunately, much of the arable land goes to cocoa instead. It is cash crops like cocoa that satiate western countries' indulgences and help continue the cycle of hunger, poverty, and despair in Africa. Rather than using the land to grow food for local consumption, it goes to export-driven agriculture that provides big profits for western corporations. These corporations exploit the people and the resources of poor countries and feed the corruption.
America spends $13 billion a year on chocolate and is the world's largest importer of chocolate. The money spent doesn't trickle down to the citizens of the exploited country. It gets caught in a web of corruption and greed that is preyed upon by ruthless western mega-corporations. It is used to fuel civil wars. Soldiers rape and murder their way across the countryside. Chocolate has become another so-called conflict resource like diamonds, timber, or oil.
Then there is the trafficking of children. The cocoa beans are harvested by children, sometimes as young as 5 years old. Children who should be in school are instead sold into slave labor and forced to work on cocoa farms under inhumane and extremely abusive conditions. In addition to the very illegality of human trafficking and the use of child labor, these children are overworked, and they wield machetes, handle pesticides, and carry backbreaking loads. They are regularly beaten. Some are sexually abused. Many suffer physical injuries and disease. They suffer emotionally. They are often unpaid, improperly fed, and locked up at night to prevent escape. According to a UNICEF report, 200,000 children are trafficked yearly in West and Central Africa.
The multinational cocoa exporters like Cargilll and Archer Daniel Midland buy from middlemen. They don't own any plantations or directly employ children. So they are innocent, right? That is what they would have you believe. However, they bear ultimate responsibility because they essentially set the prices in the world cocoa markets. They have an obligation to improve working conditions and to not support illegal trafficking and child labor. They are the ones in a position to do something about it because of their powerful position in the industry. Unfortunately, profits trump morality.
In 2001, Congress introduced legislation that would have required labeling chocolate as "Slave-Free." Can you imaging buying any chocolate that didn't have the Slave-Free label? The chocolate industry got nervous. Hershey, M&M Mars, Nestle and others were concerned that this would impact their profits. The industry fought back and lobbied hard against the legislation. As usual, Congress caved to the interests of big business. Instead of mandatory labeling, a voluntary system was agreed upon in which chocolate companies would "wean" themselves from child labor and certify they had done so.
Nine years after the chocolate industry agreed to abolish child labor, little progress has been made and the poor continue to be exploited.
Our history books taught us that slavery ended back in the days of Lincoln, but as this example shows, it is alive and well today.
IT IS TIME TO BOYCOTT THESE RUTHLESS BLOODSUCKERS!
Adapted from a speech given at Toastmasters