Catholics are being urged to only eat slavery-free chocolate and avoid Easter eggs that may have been produced using child labour this Easter.
Several Catholic organisations have joined the Slavery-Free Easter Chocolate Campaign of social justice groups calling on consumers to buy only chocolate with a label showing that the cocoa beans used in production has been sourced ethically, from farmers who engage in good labour practices.
Products bearing Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certified labels all meet the criteria.
Groups including Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), Caritas Australia, and organisations representing the Melbourne archdiocese and Ballarat and Sandhurst dioceses have joined the campaign.
The International Labour Rights Forum estimates there are about 1.5 million children working in the cocoa sector in West Africa, many of them forced to work in exploitative conditions.
ACRATH executive officer Christine Carolan says buying slavery-free chocolate at Easter gives people the opportunity to take a stand against human trafficking and slavery.
“We know that some children, working in some of the cocoa farms in West Africa are trafficked,” Ms Carolan said.
“Many others work in dangerous conditions for little or no wages and cannot attend school.
“Students in Australia may be a world away from the slavery of West Africa, but they are in a position to affect change and show solidarity with children who cannot go to school and who cannot afford to buy or eat chocolate.”
She urged schools and parishes to only use slavery-free chocolate in fundraising drives.
“If it isn’t slavery-free chocolate we urge you to ask for slavery-free chocolate. The more schools ask, the more available it will become,” she said.
While there was almost no slavery-free chocolate sold in Australia as recently as a decade ago, the global movement, led in part by Australian groups, has seen a dramatic increase in the availability of slavery -free chocolate.
Ms Carolan said many supermarkets in Australia are selling slavery-free chocolate this Easter.
“The supermarkets are slowly coming to the party, but we can do better. We want to make all the chocolate in our supermarkets and stores slavery-free,” she said.