Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chocolate and Halloween

Ever since I attended a presentation last year about the sustainable and ethical Kallari chocolate, I've been trying to think even more about my chocolate consumption (although I've certainly eaten my [un]fair share of Hershey's and Mars and all the rest, simply because it's so omnipresent).

 photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sykosam/432097056/sizes/m/in/photostream/

But this Halloween season has brought a wave of articles about chocolate candy that make clear just how detrimental our annual tradition of burying kids in candy can be, not only for these kids' dental and bodily health, but for the health of kids who are making this chocolate, whether in cacao plantations or factories.

Here are just a few of those articles that are worth checking out:

  • Child Slaves Made Your Halloween Candy. Stop Buying It, from Good
  • Halloween candy is a human rights nightmare, from Grist
  • Hershey Exchange Student Warnings Were Ignored, from the New York Times
    • this article is particularly surprising and unsettling, because it describes how foreign exchange students who paid up to $6,000 to come to the U.S. for a summer program were put to work in Hershey factories with little pay and awful work. 
    • "Many students who were placed at the packing plant found themselves working grueling night shifts on speeding production lines, repeatedly lifting boxes weighing as much as 60 pounds and financially drained by low pay and unexpected extra costs for housing and transportation. Their complaints to the contractor running the program on behalf of the State Department were met with threats that they could be sent home."
    • But also, why does this one surprise me more than the first article about child slave labor in the Ivory Coast and other African countries? Why is it more "acceptable" in those places?
A comment on one of these articles (though now I can't find out) really struck me. It said something like "Oh, you liberals are all a bunch of killjoys! I'm going to eat my candy, and I'm going to enjoy it--don't make me think about where it comes from!"  I find this kind of thing so fascinating (even as I find it deeply depressing). How to talk to people who have this feeling? How to make others see the joy in doing things right, and in trying to hurt others as little as possible? Isn't that joy deeper than than the joy of a Twix bar?

But so as not to kill all the tangible joy, here are some possible alternatives for our Halloween season:
Your thoughts?

2 comments:

  1. I love Halloween, and I think its OK for kids to get a little overwhelmed by an abundance of candy once a year. (I always had the opposite problem of saving candy too long, though, not gobbling it all at once.) I think trick or treat good for the neighborhood as a whole, too.

    Candy made by slaves, though? No. I think as soon as person knows about this they need to change their behavior. To the commenter you mentioned, maybe bringing up a historical example would help. Abolitionists boycotted sugar and cotton. Wouldn't you want to be with them? (The problem there is that *that* boycott didn't actually do a damn thing and most people thought they were crazy. Organizing, politics, and war were what worked. I believe those boycotts were rhetorically important, though--maybe another of your readers knows more specifics.) Basically though, I doubt you can win an argument with a person like that. At least not at that moment. You can only give as much good information as you can and hope it sinks in later.

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  2. I also always saved my Halloween candy for too long, Megan. I'd divide it into different piles--suckers, chocolate, sour, gum, etc.--and then only eat one from a specific pile per day. Whoa.

    And you're right that that particular commenter was probably beyond reach...Here's to hoping some of that good (though sad) information sinks in!

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