Even though we don’t go to brothels and don’t own our own slaves, in the global economy, none of us are as innocent or as removed from slavery as we’d like to think.
One of the more poignant examples of that is chocolate.
Most of the world’s chocolate is made in West Africa, with 43% of it coming from in the Ivory Coast.
The majority of chocolate workers there are boys below the age of 16. A number of them are trafficked from neighboring countries with promises of good work and high wages. After being sold to plantation owners for around $30 US they are held against their will, working 80 to 100 hours a week. Violence or the threat of violence is omnipresent and they receive no money. One escaped slave, Aly Diabate has testified “The beatings were a part of my life, anytime they loaded you with bags (of cocoa beans) and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.”
As Jews worldwide observe Passover, the Festival of Freedom, it was brought to my attention the evils of slavery that still persist in the world. Children and others are caught in a web of slavery on cocoa plantations in Africa and elsewhere.
I have since learned that Nestle promised to make their product slave-free by 2005, and have not done so.
Please heed the call of freedom. Stop purchasing cocoa from plantations that exploit and enslave children. Invest in sustainable cocoa industries that heal not destroy lives. Urge competitors to abide by anti-slavery commitments.
I will inform all my congregants, thousands of people that read my websites and listen to my classes to avoid buying your products until Nestle takes action that is independently verified.
We must act now to stop suffering and make the world a better place.
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein