Chocolate And Slavery: How Your Child’s Christmas Candy Relies On Child Slaves
By Kurtis Bright
How Companies Like Nestle, Mars and Hershey Quietly Profit From Child Slavery
Christmas is of course a time for gift-giving, cookies, and hot chocolate.
But while western parents get to shower their children with presents and candy for a day, there are children halfway around the world who labor in conditions of modern slavery to provide the chocolate for those treats.
Toiling in cocoa groves in the brutal heat of the Ivory Coast, these children live very different lives from those of their western counterparts, subject to beatings and withheld food, with no hope of release.
And the sad fact is that many major chocolate producers quietly take advantage of this system of modern slavery, maximizing profits and taking no responsibility for the misery they help to foster.
A recent lawsuit names some of the biggest companies in the chocolate industry, including Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey, alleging that their participation in child slavery is ongoing in Ghana and Ivory Coast, as it has been for decades.
Predictably, the companies and nations named in the lawsuit continue to drag their feet when it comes to dealing with the horrors and injustice of the situation. The latest agreement has set a laughable goal of 2020 for ending childhood slavery in the cocoa fields.
So childhood slavery, beatings and misery should be tolerated for another FOUR YEARS? In order to not disrupt a corrupt system that all parties claim to agree is unacceptable? This is a shameful delay of the end of something that should be wiped out immediately, by force if need be.
For a more direct view of the horrors these children routinely undergo, check out a powerful film, “Slavery: A Global Investigation.” There is a tremendously moving section on the child slaves of the cocoa fields of West Africa in which the filmmakers illustrate how these children, often as young as ten years old, are routinely beaten with belts, fists and sticks, and forced to work 80 to 100 hours a week--all to benefit the powerful stockholders of major chocolate companies.
“The beatings were a part of my life,” explained freed slave Aly Diabate. “Anytime they loaded you with bags [of cocoa beans] and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again.”
And the problem is endemic to the industry. Child slavery is part and parcel of the production of chocolate, and it taints all the candy companies you have heard of.
“At the moment, no major chocolate company can guarantee their cocoa supply is not tainted by child labor,” said Elizabeth Jardim of non-profit Green America, a group that promotes ethical consumer choices. “However, most have launched sustainability programs that attempt to address child labor in a variety of ways, largely thanks to consumer pressure.”
Until the major chocolate companies feel some pain from consumers who are concerned not only with their own children, but also with the children whose lives are stolen in order to make their sweets this will never change, not even in the far-off 2020 goal set by the companies and nations involved.
Virtually all chocolate sourced from Africa is likely to be tainted by child slave labor. By applying pressure to the big chocolate manufacturers, we can change this sad fact. At the very least we can choose not to support slavers, like Nestlé, Mars and Hershey.
Please check out this list of chocolate manufacturers that the Food Empowerment Project recommends as free of child labor.