The Real Dark Side of Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween.  Despite the dreary forecast for the day, children are getting excited for their adventures in trick-or-treating.  The neighborhood is decorated with carved pumpkins, creepy figures, and orange and purple lights (although I missed when purple became the other color of Halloween…).  When I was young, it did not matter the weather – we went out; neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, well, you get the picture…I even recall one year in Minnesota going out in spite of the blizzard (which dumped almost 3 feet of snow in the area)!  Nothing could keep us from the Halloween loot, or the excitement of the night, back when trick-or-treating still took place at night.

I loved it all, especially the excitement of feeling scared, knowing that it was all pretend.  As time as passed, and knowledge has grown, the fear I feel is no longer the childhood naivety.  It is no longer about whether the werewolf on the chair is real, or if there are spiders in the webs.  The fear I feel is for the future of our world.  How far have we come over these past 150 years since slavery was abolished?  Is the chocolate I bought really just an innocent gift to hand out to the cute children?  Or am I supporting and industry that still thrives off of slave labor?  And worse yet, off of child slaves?

Yes, over a decade ago the Harkin-Engel Protocol was created, and many chocolate companies signed on.  Initially it was intended “to assure consumers that chocolate companies were acting ethically and ending forced and trafficked child labor in their cocoa supply” (The Cocoa Protocol:  Success or failure?).  According to this same report, however, this intent has yet to be achieved and “consumers today have no more assurance than they did eight years ago that trafficked or exploited child labor was not used in the production of their chocolate.”

This is not to say that companies are sitting back and ignoring what is happening – they have taken steps to right this horrible wrong.  But until consumers take a stand and make a change in their buying habits, companies do not need to ensure they are doing everything in their power to eradicate child slavery in the production of their products.  So next time you need your chocolate fix, consider “splurging” for that fair trade chocolate – show the chocolate companies that we will be responsible consumers who care more about human rights than a little extra pocket change.

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