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Behr chocolate and Warner Bros. could learn from Harry Potter lessons on human rights

The magical world of Harry Potter has been brought to life by a theme park, edible goods and collectible items. However, the company that produces the Chocolate Frogs has come under fire by the Harry Potter Alliance after it received a failing grade in 47 of 48 categories from Free2Work.

The chocolate company, Behr, is based in Orlando, Fla., but gets its cocoa supply from West Africa. In the report, in a category about corporate policies, one of the questions is: “Code includes elimination of child labor?” and Free2Work answered with, “No.”

HPA has expressed concern about the use of child laborers and human rights, and released an independent evaluation in 2010.

In the spring of 2011, the alliance presented the CEO of Warner Bros., Barry Meyer, with the Free2Work report and 16,000 signatures from Harry Potter fans asking that the chocolate become Fair Trade.

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Warner Bros. responded by saying it conducted a report and the cocoa met its “ethical guidelines.” However, Warner Bros. would not release the report to the HPA nor provide a reason. Because of this, HPA created a movement called, “Not in Harry’s Name.” On a more local level, the University of Arizona’s HPA is doing its part in contributing to the movement.

Janae Phillips, president and co-founder of the UA’s Harry Potter Alliance chapter, and a senior studying family studies and human development, said this is not just an issue of child labor but also a misrepresentation of the series.

“It’s bad enough to know that there are child slaves being used to produce chocolate, but its pretty terrible to know they are producing chocolate representing children’s books,” said Phillips.

Keeping in mind incidents from the books such as Hermione defending the rights of house elves or Dobby’s enthusiasm about being paid to work, the use of child labor to produce Harry Potter memorabilia is completely baffling. It is a direct indifference to the message J.K. Rowling offered her readers and a disregard to the reason fans continue to love Harry Potter years after the final book was published.

After all, Harry Potter himself is the champion of the oppressed and a symbol of hope in the face of evil as “the boy who lived” and “the chosen one.” And somehow, Warner Bros. finds it appropriate to slap Harry Potter’s name on merchandise that is the direct product of child slave labor.

It comes down to one thing: American consumers are greedy. We have always been greedy and we will probably continue to be greedy for as long as possible. And while we all know it, what makes our materialistic lifestyle affordable is our shameful ability to turn a blind eye to the cheap labor that is done far away from our own backyard.

What the HPA is attempting with the “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign is to force consumers to finally demonstrate some morality. The time has come to draw the line at allowing child slaves to produce the chocolate Warner Bros. markets to children of the same age worlds away.

The HPA’s goal now is to force Behr and Warner Bros. to prove in a report the steps they are taking to improve their Free2Work grade, which entails the companies using Fair Trade policies in the production of chocolate frogs. There are alternative routes to producing cocoa that don’t involve child slaves and are fair trade acceptable.

Harry Potter fans deserve the right to enjoy a Chocolate Frog whether its for the taste, the character card, or to reminisce on the first time they ever picked up a Harry Potter book without worrying about what the chocolate really costs.

— Michelle Cook is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu, or on Twitter via @miniswag1.


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