Everybody loves chocolate! In the UK, the average person spends more than £325 on chocolate every year, with 59% of Brits considering chocolate an essential part of their weekly shop.
But when did you last stop to consider the ethics of how we make chocolate?
From bean to bar
When you unwrap your favourite chocolate bar, you probably don’t think about the long journey it’s been on to get to you.
To make chocolate, a number of things have to happen:
- First, workers have to harvest cocoa beans from the cacao tree.
- Next they leave the beans out in the sun to ferment for about a week then dry them quickly to prevent mould.
- After this, they roast the cocoa beans to enhance their natural flavour.
- Then they process the beans and separate them into the hull (which they discard) and the nib, which contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
- To get to the chocolate we know and love, they blend cocoa solids and butter with sugar and milk. They use different quantities to make dark and milk chocolate!
While this sounds relatively straightforward and harmless, the use of milk actively supports and contributes to the dairy industry. An industry which exploits and kills millions of cows every year.
Dairy is scary
While some people argue that dairy doesn’t cause harm as cows naturally produce milk, it is a myth. The intensive dairy industry is very cruel and causes cows a huge amount of stress, pain and trauma. And, it is directly responsible for the deaths of young calves.
Snatched at birth
Like all mammals, cows must give birth to produce milk. So, to keep up with demand for dairy, farmers artificially and forcibly impregnat cows. And on top of that, in most cases they forcibly take their calves from them within the first 24 hours.
If the calf happens to be male (thus unprofitable on a dairy farm), farmers slaughter them soon after birth to produce cheap meat.
Prone to infections
Unfortunately the suffering of the female cows doesn’t end here. Over many years dairy cows have been selectively bred to the point where they produce several gallons of milk a day instead of the one gallon needed to rear a calf. This means their udders are swollen and unnaturally large, thus very uncomfortable and prone to infection.
On factory farms, dairy cows are kept inside for the majority of their lives, in cramped conditions with hundreds of other animals. They live through the cycle of impregnation, pregnancy, separation and milking four or five times until their bodies give out.
Once the cows are unable to produce any more calves, which means no more milk, they are sent to the slaughterhouse where they are killed for their meat. This happens on average once the cows reach 5 years old, a fraction of their natural lifespan which can exceed 20 years.
What does this mean for Chocolate?
Don’t worry, you can enjoy chocolate without supporting the cruelty of the dairy industry.
In the last few years, delicious non-dairy chocolate alternatives have started to spring up, each tastier than the last. With the vegan chocolate market expected to reach $1 billion in global sales by 2027, you can expect more and more cruelty free options to hit the shelves in the coming years.
If you’re not sure where to start, the Food Empowerment Project have listed all vegan chocolate offerings that do not source their chocolate from areas where child labour and/or slavery are most prevalent- good for the animals AND the humans!
Blog by OneKind volunteer, Katharine Quinn