For many years now - at least fifteen - we have avoided all Nestlé products due to their policies on baby milk. This is pretty big in the UK, at least in Christian and/or home educating circles, and isn't very hard to implement. Occasionally I have a slight hankering for a KitKat, but in general it's not a problem at all. I don't make a huge deal of it - when offered Nescafé or given After Eights, I accept with thanks. But I won't buy Nestlé products myself - at least, not knowingly.
However, I've taken something of an ostrich-style stance about how chocolate is produced in general, or what other companies do. I was shocked out of my lethargy recently by reading that Mars conducts cruel animal experiments - totally unnecessary for human safety since chocolate is poisonous to most animals. This was a bit of a jolt, since we have been buying and very much enjoying plain chocolate Bounty bars, recently, and I do rather like Galaxy.
It was only about a week later that our young teenage friend Jacob brought out the latest issue of his single-handedly produced youth magazine 'The Onymous'. The focus was on child slavery on chocolate farms. I knew, somewhere deep down, that a lot of chocolate was produced unfairly, but I suppose I had vaguely thought that although wages were extremely low for cocoa-bean pickers, they probably were still worth having, and that if people didn't buy regular chocolate, these impoverished workers would suffer.
But Jacob's well-researched article made sobering reading. Chocolate slaves are young children, bought from their parents with promises of wealth, made to work long days with no breaks. They live in crowded, filthy conditions and are beaten cruelly if they slow down.
Thankfully not all chocolate is produced this way. Some beans are produced without slaves, sold by Fairtrade organisations. When Jacob wrote his article, the only fairly traded chocolate available in Cyprus was made by Green and Black's, one of the pioneer organic/fairtrade groups. And it wasn't easy to find. In our favourite supermarket, Metro, there are several Green and Black's bars available, but they're not shelved with all the other chocolate: instead, they are in the health food aisle along with other organic products, at the far end of the store.
However, by the time 'The Onymous' was actually printed and distributed, some ordinary Cadbury bars bearing the fairtrade logo had started appearing amongst the other chocolate bars in Metro:
When I spotted one, I started looking through the others to see how many there were. Not many, unfortunately - but in my search, a senior member of staff happened to be nearby, and asked if I was looking for something in particular. I pointed out the 'Fairtrade' logo, and he said that this bar was in a new shipment. He asked what the logo was, so I explained, and said that it was a good thing - that customers liked to buy fairly traded chocolate.
A couple of days later, I spotted the same bars in our local Orphanides Express. Someone there was stacking the shelves, so I talked to her about the fairtrade logo too, and she seemed impressed.
Then I bought a small packet of 'chocos':
An unoriginal name, and I suspect just an expensive way of packaging Dairy Milk (I haven't eaten them yet!) - but although fairtrade chocolate does often cost a little more than slave-produced chocolate, I'm now convinced that we should buy it more often. I asked myself if I wouldn't happily give a few cents - even a few euros - if I knew it would free a child from a life of slavery. Of course I would. If the only way to increase the amount of fairly traded chocolate and persuade the growers to stop the slave trade is to vote with our purses... then it seems to me an excellent reason to spend a a little more on fairly traded chocolate. Even if it means buying fewer bars overall.
I encourage anyone reading this to do likewise. And if you can talk to a member of the shop staff about fairtrade chocolate, then perhaps they will buy more....
(Those who want to do this in Cyprus, but are dairy-free, lactose intolerant or vegan will probably have to stick to Green and Black's which do various plain chocolate brands but are rather more pricey still. But you could always get in touch with other fairtrade chocolate suppliers and ask them if they would consider exporting to this island)