My favourite time of the year is upon us, and it has nothing to do with religious beliefs, but rather a 4 day obligation to gobble as many Easter Eggs as I can. There’s something about those shiny wrappers…
But now as a conscious consumer, I think twice before just grabbing any product off the shelves. Eating chocolate has a myriad of associated impacts, including child labour, the use of palm oil and of course there is the issue of milk.
Here is some information on products that may leave a bad taste in your mouth and the ones that are yummy and guilt free.
Where does your chocolate come from?
According to the Food Empowerment Project (FEP), West African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa market. The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to a variety of chocolate companies, including some of the largest in the world. In recent years, the widespread use of child labour and slavery in the production of cocoa on West African Cocoa farms has been exposed. The farms of West Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestlé, revealing the industry’s direct connection to child labour, human trafficking and slavery.
As the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa. Today, cocoa farmers barely make a living selling the beans and often resort to the use of child labour in order to keep their prices competitive. The children of West Africa are surrounded by intense poverty and most begin working at a young age to help support their family. Other children are “sold” by their own relatives to traffickers or to the farm owners. Many of the child workers have never even tasted chocolate!
The FEP recommends that people do not buy any chocolate sourced from areas in West African where child slavery is the most pervasive.
Oxfam have been working with the big chocolate companies to raise their standards on issues facing women cocoa farmers and workers in Latin America. After more than 100,000 people joined Oxfam’s campaign, Cadbury, Toblerone, Oreo, Mars and Nestle have agreed to take steps to address inequality facing women in their cocoa supply chains. Together these companies buy more than 30 percent of the world’s cocoa, so changes in their policies could have huge effects for cocoa farmers and their families.
This is not a simple problem, but until supply chains become more transparent, the best you can do if you care about these issues is to purchase chocolate that is labeled Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ.
Does your chocolate contribute to logging of rainforests?
The edible oil from the fruit of the African oil palm tree is high in saturated fats and frequently used as a cheap substitute for vegetable oil in processed foods, including Easter staples chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, as well as other products such as soaps and cosmetics.If managed unsustainably, palm oil harvesting can have devastating environmental impacts, including destroying the remaining habitat of endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Up to 80% of the dwindling orangutan population live in the Bornean rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia where the bulk of the world’s palm oil is produced. Sustainably grown palm oil, managed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil – founded by the the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – does exist, but makes up a small percentage of global production.
Palm Oil Free Chocolate Guide:
Save the bilby and the rainforests too
The bilby is a very cute little creature, native to Australia. This small burrowing bandicoot used to be found in its millions, living across 70% of our country. Over the past 200 years settlement and clearing, plus the introduction of rabbits, foxes and feral cats, pushed this animal almost to extinction – in fact, entirely to extinction in South Australia.
Rabbits, although very cute, are hugely destructive to Australia’s environment and compete with our native bilby for habitat. Haigh’s Chocolates stopped making chocolate bunnies and have begun made Easter bilbys in order to raise funds and awareness for the bilby. Haigh’s chocolates are also palm oil free, which is good for rainforest habitats too. See http://www.haighschocolates.com.au/community-item/bilby/
Thanks to increased awareness and lots of hard work by a number of organisations and government departments, the bilby is starting to make a comeback. In South Australia, where the bilby was once extinct, there are now estimated to be over 1500 of them back in the wild.
Dairy Free Easter
Another issue surrounding the devouring of Easter eggs is that the majority of them are made using dairy products. There is no doubt milk is a good source of many nutrients, but many people are intolerant to lactose, the sugar naturally found in cow’s milk.
The groundbreaking book The China Study, which is the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted, says dairy is way worse for us than we think. More recent research has linked dairy products to certain cancers (http://pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/ask/ask-the-expert-dairy-products).
There are also the animal welfare issues inherent in the dairy industry, such as keeping cows in a perpetual state of pregnancy and lactation and the issue of bobby calves (the 900,000 male calves sent to slaughter at 5 days old in Australia alone).
If you would like to enjoy an Easter without dairy there are some great dairy-free alternatives.
Beat The Queues
It’s not a bad idea to avoid the Easter shopping frenzy altogether and order your Easter treats online. Biome has a great range of ethical chocolate and Easter treats, including fair-trade, carob and rice milk Easter eggs. See http://www.biome.com.au/198-fair-trade-chocolate
Here’s to a guilt-free Easter – at least as far as ethical chocolate is concerned!