COLUMN: Chocolate industry built on blood and sweat of child slaves

Treats have started filling store aisles, each candy packaged in orange and black and other Halloween-centric imagery.

Halloween offers a bounty of goods as a treat for children knocking at each door. But one staple of the season, chocolate, has a dark, sinister side associated with it.

Chocolate, a $13-million industry, is made from the fruit of the cacao tree. Cacao pods contain nibs that are crushed to make unsweetened chocolate.

According to the BBC documentary “Slavery: A Global Investigation,” slaves were being abused on the cocoa farms. This story caused a public relations nightmare for the chocolate industries in the U.S. in 2001.

In the film, a freed slave said, “You are eating my flesh,” describing the torment of harvesting chocolate.

West Africa is the world’s largest supplier of cocoa beans, providing 43 percent of the world’s supply. The documentary exposed the labor practices on these farms.

According to the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” children are slaving away harvesting cocoa, before Western chocolate kings Hershey and Mars Inc. buy it, keeping prices low and profits high.

Slavery-produced chocolate was supposed to be banned by now in America and chocolate companies were supposed to adhere to the Harkin-Engel Protocol of 2001.

According to the protocol, the chocolate industry was to develop and implement credible, voluntary and industry-wide standards of public certification, which would take effect by July 1, 2005. Five years later, slavery is still an issue.

Anti-slavery coalition Stop The Traffik claims Ivory Coast plantations have bought 12,000 child slaves since 2005. These children are fed little, beaten daily and some have lost limbs as punishment for attempted escape.

William Wilberforce, a British slave trade abolitionist in the 1800s, was able to organize a successful sugar boycott which helped end slavery in England. Why can’t Americans successfully boycott chocolate?

Perhaps money and cheap products is all people care about.

Some change has happened, some chocolate companies have taken steps to end these brutal practices. More awareness is still needed.

A few simple things can be done. Start with finding out where fair trade chocolate is sold.

Perhaps a Halloween chocolate boycott across this nation would get the attention of chocolate companies.

Reforms inevitably mean less profit for the chocolate industry because the farmers would have to pay legal workers. It also means that consumers have to pay a little more too.

People who value human life should not mind that.


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