Christians should offer an alternative to Halloween traditions. Churches should be supporting activities that promote biblical values, not worldly traditions that thoughtlessly (and inadvertently) support actual evil.
We are, of course, talking about candy.
This year, American consumers will spend $2.6 billion on candy—to give out to trick-or-treaters, at Halloween gatherings and at harvest parties and church activities—during the weeks leading up to Oct. 31. Most of that will be chocolate.
But the truly scary thing many consumers may not be aware of is that many of those cheap chocolates may have actually been made using child labor. And by purchasing them, many of us may unknowingly support slavery.
In fact, a lawsuit filed last month against Hershey, Mars and Nestle alleges that the candy makers are complicit in the use of African child slaves to harvest the cacao beans used to make their candy bars.
The suit, filed by a trio of consumers in California. says:
The consumers reaching out to our firm have been outraged to learn that the candy they enjoy has a dark, bitter production cost—that child and slave labor have been a part of Nestle, Mars and Hershey’s chocolate processing. These companies fail to disclose their use of child and forced labor, tricking consumers into indirectly supporting the use of such labor.
The lives of the people who harvest cocoa are nothing short of terrible. Some of these children are abducted, and there are countless missing children claims. To make matters worse, sometimes extremely poor people sell their own children into slavery for as little as $30. Children younger than 10 carry sacks so big, they cause them serious physical harm. Much of the world’s chocolate is quite literally brought to us by the back-breaking labor of child slaves.
For decades, the chocolate industry has been accused of utilizing child labor for cacao harvesting operations that subject children to horrific working conditions and regular beatings. Though major chocolate makers mentioned in the suit said they vehemently oppose child labor, have invested millions in efforts they hope will eliminate the practice and say they are dedicated to ensuring ethical practices are in place (Nestle called the suit “without merit”), some critics are still skeptical of the effectiveness of the programs.
Some say change is happening too slowly. And in some cases, the use of child slavery may actually be getting worse. As The Daily Beast notes, several studies suggests that currently, “there are more child laborers in the cocoa industry than ever before.”
As consumers, we have the ability to get involved. Though the supply chains for chocolates can often be complex and intentionally non-transparent, there are companies dedicated to providing us with quality, ethical chocolate.
Companies like Taza Chocolate and Askinosie practice direct trade, working with local farmers to ensure quality production practices, fair wages and transparent relationships. And artisan chocolate makers like Dandelion Chocolate, Madécasse Chocolate and Rogue Chocolatier also take a “bean-to-bar” approach so they know exactly where their product comes from and who makes it.
Like many of the products we buy every day, the reality of our chocolate’s origins can be easily ignored. But, as consumers, it’s our job to be informed, know what our money is supporting and know how to embrace ethical alternatives.