Well yes. Cacao, the plant that provides us with the delicious beans that make chocolate, is totally vegan, as long as dairy or other animal products aren’t added to it, like they are in milk chocolate. So dark chocolate is usually vegan. Lots of chocolate chips are vegan. Cocoa power is definitely vegan!
But is it cruelty free?
Unfortunately, for much of the chocolate in the world, the answer is no.
70% of the world’s chocolate comes from Western Africa. Mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast. If you’re eating a candy bar, a chocolate chip cookie, or some chocolate ice cream, chances are that your chocolate came from West Africa. Even if it’s vegan chocolate.
And chances are, your chocolate was picked by children. By slaves.
You see, there’s still a lot of slavery in the agricultural industry. And chocolate is one of the worst offenders. These children are trafficked, abused, and starved, all while they work countless hours of backbreaking labor harvesting cacao.
Yeah. Chocolate doesn’t taste so good when you know the truth, does it?
Well, fortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t want to support slavery in the chocolate industry, which is why you’ll see some chocolate products nowadays are fair trade certified. That fair trade certification means that the farms sourcing the chocolate pay their workers and don’t use slaves or children. There’s a great website, Food Empowerment Project, that lists brands of chocolate that are slavery-free. They also have a handy dandy app, so that you can search their chocolate list while you’re shopping! It’s very helpful.
Does fair trade chocolate cost more? Yes. It does usually cost a little bit more. But you know what? Chocolate is NOT an essential food, as much as I think it is. So I’d rather spend a couple more dollars on cruelty free chocolate than save a buck and support slavery.
Can’t find fair trade chocolate chips or cocoa powder at your local store? Well, my friends, that’s why there’s internet shopping! We order our fair trade raw cacao powder online in bulk and save quite a bit by doing so.
Do I 100% of the time eat fair trade chocolate? No. I’ve slipped up from time to time. I’ve had chocolate sorbet on vacation because I was SO EXCITED that it was vegan, I’ve bought “regular” vegan chocolate chips when I couldn’t find fair trade. I’ve supported small vegan businesses that don’t use fair trade chocolate, because there’s nothing I love more than supporting a vegan business. But just like my transition to veganism, I am transitioning to cruelty free chocolate. My goal is by the end of 2015 to only be consuming fair trade chocolate!
I have a long way to go before I’m a fully conscious consumer. But I’m making changes. And chocolate is a great place to start!