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Slavery, Fair Trade & Ethical Mead

There are 27 million people living in modern slavery. The only two countries where slavery hasn’t been identified are Greenland and Iceland. And, unlike the slaves of old, modern slaves are cheap to acquire and completely disposable. For sex. Food production. Filthy tasks. Child labour. Slaves are unpaid, stolen or tricked into service, not free to leave and subject to violence (including death). Their vulnerability is through poverty.

Slaves are a part of the four-fifth’s of our 7 billion population worse off under the current phase of Globalisation. I’ve read that only one-fifth are better off – those with cash, freedoms and access to high quality goods and services. Those, like most of us, living where the rule of law is respected.

When we knowingly buy products that are slavery free it is an important statement to international markets and a reflection on our values. We have an ethical connection between products and services we buy and their provenance.

My Congolese friend Christopher pointed out to me – every SMS I send from this mobile phone (because of the coltan refined later into tantulum) drips the blood of his people.

One of the reasons to buy Fair Trade products is that you can guarantee being slavery free. The growers and pickers can opt in or out of the trade. And they are paid a slight premium. Fair trade tries to give back to the communities.

In my life the particular concerns are coffee, chocolate and spices. But I know my will wanes in the face of aggressive corporate marketing.

However, spices are something mead makers need to consider in our business model. Yes, we want the best spices for metheglin. But that needs to be in the context of where those spices originate and the suffering that may-or-may-not be associated in our supply chain.

Provenance of the spices in our mead is even more important than the provenance of our apiarist sourced honey. Consider that we could be irreparably damaged by the question “Where do you source spices?”

If, by some quirk of misfortune, your artisan mead products happen to be outed as slave associated then your brand will find it almost impossible to recover. Blood money is a cardinal sin when making artisinal produce. Authentic means nothing in the face of others’ suffering.

Next Winter we are going to seek explicit assurances from spice sellers that their products are Free Trade. It’s as simple as that. If we can’t be assured from this point forward that spices entering the fermenter aren’t slave free then our presumption has to be to the contrary. And we’ll make alternate styles of mead. And we’ll take our lumps as they come.

What really brings this home is that we lost a family member in recent weeks who spent considerable time working to improve East Africa. He was an architect. He lived by admirable values.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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