Bloody Chocolate

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Everyone likes chocolate, right? What not many people know about chocolate is that most of it contains cocoa that was produced by child slave labor.

Slavery has been around for centuries. If asked if slavery is still around, most people would probably say that it isn't, but there are many different types of slavery and not all of them are visible on the surface. All kinds of slavery are outlawed around the world, but this doesn't stop some people. In the Ivory Coast, where more than 40% of the cocoa used in the world today is produced, many believe that, although large chocolate companies deny it, they use large amounts of slave labor, child slave labor, on their cocoa farms.

Many of the children who are enslaved in the Ivory Coast cocoa bean farms are poor children from the nearby country Mali. Mali is a pretty poor country, and most children are sent away to learn a trade, so nobody notices if they just disappear. When a boy, usually between the ages of nine to about sixteen, is walking home a person will come and offer them employment. They are promised workers' benefits, wages to send their parents, and they are told can quit whenever they want. The slaver might even offer the boy candy or a bicycle. What they are offered is so wonderful, they will probably say yes without even considering it much, and get hauled out of the country, or "trafficked", and sold to do backbreaking labor in the cocoa bean fields. These boys do a ton of work in the fields just to make us chocolate. Does that seem right?

Those who are rescued tell haunting tales of their days working at the farms. According to one boy, Aly Diabate, who described what a typical day would be like. The boys started work at six or so in the morning and, working in small groups, spent all day harvesting cocoa beans. First, one of them would cut down a pod of three or four beans, with a machete almost as tall as his body, then, using the same tool, he would cut it open to get the beans out. After that, the beans were loaded into huge bags that were more than four-feet tall. A few of the kids loaded sacks onto the other boys' heads so they could be carried to the large trucks that waited to take the beans away. On the way to the truck if a boy fell down an over-seer would beat him with a bicycle chain, or whatever else was handy. When they finally reached the truck they had to load the bags onto it, if they weren't stacked carefully they could fall and crush someone. Then the truck drove away to bring us one step closer to getting the chocolate we crave. and at night, when they were finally allowed to quit working at around six thirty, the boys were shoved into tiny rooms to sleep. On Aly Diabate's farm, nineteen or so boys were locked in a twenty-four by twenty foot wooden shed, where they spent the night, sleeping on wood boards, with nothing but a can to be used instead of toilet, in case of the need to use the restroom. They weren't given good food either, in Aly's case they were only given a few bananas each day.

Chocolate is a wonderful thing, and I'm not sure how anyone could not love eating it, but does living in the rich United States give us the right to enjoy something that was made through another's suffering? That is covered in metaphorical blood? I don't think so, and I hope no one does. If you love chocolate, but don't want it dirtied by cruelty and evil, buy fair trade chocolate, or just organic chocolate. Fair Trade is made with the promise that workers are paid fairly, and there are so few places that make organic cocoa that slavery isn't really a concern yet, as those places that do make it are so few that they are to visible to use slave labor. By not buying slave chocolate you can help end slavery, at least in this venue. If they aren't making money from their trade, the slave owners will stop buying slaves, until all of them are honest. At least, that's what I hope, and without hope we have nothing. Stop buying bloody chocolate and help this hope grow, please.





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paigemeable said...
Sept. 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm
That's horrible! I had no idea choclate was made that way!!
 
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