Chocolate might make a lovely Valentines Day gift, but in many cases, the source isn’t so sweet. Children are kidnapped and worked to near-death to provide chocolate for many big brands. The best thing consumers can do is read labels and buy fair-trade only.
From Tree Hugger:
If you thought slavery had ended, think again. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, children are often kidnapped from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in order to provide slave labour on cocoa plantations. In Bitter Chocolate, journalist Carol Off describes the conditions in which these child slaves work:
“The farmers were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders… Farmers were paying organized groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their cocoa groves, while police were being bribed to look the other way.”
These children are responsible for climbing cocoa trees, cutting down bean pods, and chopping them open with machetes, which leads to inevitable accidents. They are exposed to hazardous pesticides that they spray without protective equipment. They are fed corn paste and bananas, the cheapest food available, and they’re not paid.
When one former child slave was asked what he’d stay to chocolate-eating Westerners, he answered, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”
Despite the fact that the cocoa industry’s awful human rights record is now public knowledge, “Big Chocolate” – Cargill, Nestlé, Hershey, Mars, etc. – has not taken the necessary steps to guarantee that its products are slave-free. Many problems could be alleviated, or at least improved, if these companies paid their workers a living wage, one that is high enough to maintain a basic standard of living that includes education, health care, and savings.