According to the California Academy of Sciences Americans consume an average of 12 pounds of chocolate per person on an annual basis while spending 13 billion$ a year on chocolate. The first world obsession with chocolate and it’s association with happiness has made it a staple. However behind the this sweet tasting product lies the harsh reality of child slavery involved in it’s production. Although it accounts for but a mere fraction of global cocoa consumption, West Africa produces 70% of the worlds chocolate. Child slavery remains a prevalent issue at the heart of chocolate production.
In a October 31, 2013 article in the Huffington Post by Amanda Gregory entitled “Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking this Holiday Season” the injustice is documented as the article states that “The terrible reality is that these children, 11-to-16-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, receive no education, are under fed, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again”. Gregory continues to document the harrowing process seeing children trafficked mainly from impoverished Mali and neighboring countries to the Ivory Coast, where most production takes place. Legislation to certify fair practices in the chocolate industry were blocked repeatedly by the deep pocketed industry.
An American University study entitled “Chocolate and Slavery” (http://www1.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm) delves into the causes and complications involved in the process. An estimated 15,000 child slaves work the 600,000 cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The study reveals the reprehensible conditions faced by the children, fed corn paste and locked up at nights to prevent any attempt to escape the misery. It further reveals the reliance of cocoa in the Ivory Coast and the corresponding price fluctuations and fragile nature of the industry leading farmers to seek cheaper labor. Thus farmers often rely on unethical practices to contain costs in an unstable global economy. This along with grinding poverty in countries such as Mali lead many to sell their children seeking income to support their families.
As we continue to savor every piece of chocolate we might crave, we must not turn a blind eye to the suffering involved in producing such savory feelings. Unlike other questionable practices like sweatshop labor, child slavery can not be rationalized with the same deluded logic that a job is better than no job. Slavery can never be justified and perpetuating our behaviors that prolong the suffering can not be tolerated. For those conscientious about their consumption there are avenues they can go for clean consumption of chocolate.
In a Huffington Post article by John Robbins on September 24th, 2010, companies known to have no ties to child slavery are identified and those who so desire can know who they are. He states that “These companies include Clif Bar, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Denman Island Chocolate, Divine Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Gardners Candies, Green and Black’s, John & Kira’s, Kailua Candy Company, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolates, Montezuma’s Chocolates, NewLeaf Chocolates, Newman’s Own Organics, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, Rapunzel Pure Organics, Shaman Chocolates, Sweet Earth Chocolates, Taza Chocolate, The Endangered Species Chocolate Company, and Theo Chocolate”, referring to clean chocolate companies. So this is invaluable information on the road to conscientious consumption.