[Image: A chocolate rhinoceros from Chocolate Decadence, currently a recommended company on the FEP Chocolate List.]
This Valentine’s Day, many vegans will enjoy what they might think is “cruelty-free” chocolate: Made without milk or other animal products. Unfortunately, much of the cocoa used to make chocolate treats is the product of child labor, and, in some cases, slavery. This applies even to some chocolate that is labeled “Fair Trade.” The Food Empowerment Project has detailed information on this tragic situation.
The FEP has created a chocolate list that recommends companies whose cocoa does not come from slave labor. The list includes only vegan chocolates (containing no animal products). The research on these companies is ongoing, and the list is continually updated. It is available for iOS and Android as well as on the web. I highly encourage everyone to review it before your next shopping trip.
Some vegans might be resistant to adding one more product to the “not allowed” list. Here’s the thing: Chocolate is a treat. Avoiding chocolate does not put an unfair economic or health burden on anyone. Turning down a treat is, at most, a social inconvenience.
The question here shouldn’t be whether slavery-made chocolate should be considered “vegan” or not. Lots of products we use in our daily lives, including cell phones, come from oppressive working conditions. If we were to only grant the title of “vegan” to those who lived a truly cruelty-free lifestyle, likely none of us would earn that designation.
We should strive to cause the least possible harm simply because that’s the right thing to do, not because we’re vegans. What does it say to young African children if we are willing to enjoy momentary taste pleasure from their involuntary servitude, but balk at eating the same treats if they were made from the forced labor of cows? For US-Americans, does our distance from the African continent – or, dare I say it, difference in skin color – influence our choices here?
The Food Empowerment Project has a saying: “Eat Your Ethics.” No amount of taste pleasure can justify child slavery. Please review the chocolate list before your next shopping trip.