The Chocolate Wars: A Bitter Tale of Greed and Child Slavery

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child labour for cocoa and chocolate

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One wonders with a title as ‘provocative’ as this, what’s to follow; regrettably, nothing more than a truthful and bitter tale of greed and child slave-labour, mainly because of what I like to call “The Chocolate Wars”.  These corporate battles have been going on for quite some time, and are still, mainly being waged by the major Chocolate companies against their own distant labourers; where, they are knowingly using children as human slaves.

Countless reports and eye witness accounts over just as many countless years have claimed that these young children are being worked to the point of malnutrition, exhaustion, and starvation; under filthy, dangerous, and deplorable working conditions.  All the while, these ‘Barons of Chocolate’ posturingly promote the virtues of their chocolates; as they remain hidden away within their corporate ivory towers of power, many, many thousands of miles away; safely protected and distanced from the deadly reality of, ‘life as a child-slave on the cocoa plantation’!

Teetering on the precipice of this 13+ billion dollar industry, is a sad tale of two million children world-wide, working themselves almost to death, just to feed our insatiable chocolate habits! Children as young as 8 can be sold or even forced into slavery by local ‘agents’, working on behalf of our all too familiar corporate ‘Barons of Chocolate’; specifically, in order to recruit the cheapest of workers for their cocoa plantations.  In the same way, as in other parts of Africa, where at the same age, they are forced to kill and fight in local wars.

cocoa child labourOver there, over worked, and severely under paid; they quite easily and secretly become, nameless, faceless, child labourers, used and abused for the sole purpose of increasing the ‘local and global’ chocolate profits! At the same time, on this same land, there are other lasting effects; toxic environmental degradation, due to the over-using of chemical pesticides and fertilizers; in order to keep-up with the incessant demand for greater yields and seemingly never-ending higher production quotas! Hey, the truth is people seem to love to eat chocolate; as long as they never get to know how they got it. This is the true cost of chocolate, in terms of human lives (slave children).

The chain of command goes something like this: They give the orders at Corporate HQ somewhere in the US and Canada, and there execution gets delivered thousands of miles away, where fragile children, already living in extreme poverty, become easy prey for these predatory types; and, those countries already stretched-to-the-limit, limited resources. With the majority of these childhood abuses happening in West Africa; mostly on poor Ivory Coast rural farms; where there are no unions, no health staff; nor, any truly safe living or working conditions; and, most of these poor kids are extremely over-worked for little or no pay at all!

For far too many years, these children and their families’ lands have been expropriated and abused for corporate profits, corporate expansion, and downright corporate greed. Finally in 2002, The International Cocoa Initiative was established, with industry, labour unions and local residents, to deal with these types of ‘problems’; and to force these world’s biggest chocolate makers to publicly pledge to use only ‘ethical’ cocoa, and sans ‘child-labor’. They have until 2020 to comply, yet so far only a handful have done so; most are refusing to answer the ‘fifth-estate’ type calls regarding whether they intend to ‘sign-up’ or not!


And, why also, should those children and their families continue to suffer for another 7 years to come, uncertain of any hope or long lasing beneficial change in their lives and communities? Must these “Chocolate Wars” continue to be played out in the corporate boardrooms; indirectly or directly, dooming the fates of millions of distant children and their families? Why aren’t the ‘Barons of Chocolate’ doing something about these human atrocities linked to their Brand, and their products’ manufacturing conditions?

Why indeed!

World Vision, a worldwide non-profit organization on the pulse of what’s going on in this direction, claims that, “95% of chocolate is not certified free of child or forced labour”. That figure by the way is worldwide for chocolate! Coincidentally, World Vision has also recently released its Good Chocolate Guide, which lists the specific ethical brands and their products that are currently commercially available in most stores. And, most are not on that list!

cocoa child labour

According to their recent poll, “60% said they would be willing to spend more on a product if they knew it was child labour-free”. As a country, we as Canadians consume about 5.5 kg of chocolate each year. That’s an equivalent of 7 M&M’s per person, per day! Honestly speaking, would you be willing to give up 1 ‘M&M’ per day, to totally eradicate child labour in the chocolate industry once and for all?

Based on actual figures, that’s all it will take, the equivalent to the cost of just one M&M per person, per day, to save those miserable and suffering children from a life of indentured servitude, disease, and untimely death! It’s up to us, and not the Chocolate Industry to do something about this child-slave labour situation.

We love the stuff; we eat the stuff, and we buy it for others by the pound, each and every year. Believe it or not, we have a BIG say in what we choose to buy and from whom. We just have to care enough, about someone else, even as remote and as far away as West Africa, in order to really make our impact felt through-out the rest of our World!

  • Andrew Zubriczky

    I enjoy writing about health and environmental matters. Our world matters to all that live within it's fragile domain. We need to protect and preserve Life above all else.

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