How Ethical is the Chocolate Industry?

It’s very rare that we as humans sit back and question what we are eating beyond whether it is healthy. We rarely question how ethical the food industry is. Chocolate is adored by virtually everyone, it is even more rare that you find someone who does not like chocolate. 

What if I told you that your most loved treat may not be as ethically sound as you once thought? Would you be shocked to hear that the chocolate industry is linked to slavery and child labour?

I know I was. It’s sad news to hear that something we all love and enjoy is involved in such poor practices. However, is more important being informed before you buy your next bar of yummy chocolate.

About the Chocolate Industry

The chocolate industry’s production is based primarily outside of Western Africa. This is because the climate conditions are ideal for cocoa bean production in nations such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria. These nations are also ideal to source cocoa beans from since most of the giant chocolate companies base their pricing strategies on their ability to sell large quantities of chocolate at low prices.

The unfortunate side here and this is where things become unethical is, with these inexpensive costs come other expenses. 

In the other hand they use harmful chemicals, such as methyl bromide and lindane. Those chemicals are found in the pesticides that are used to maintain the cocoa crops. These chemicals are known to lead to reproduce, neurological and respiratory complications. Imagine! those harmful chemicals are possibly in your chocolate.

The Ivory Coast and Nigeria have to be able to supply cheap cocoa for chocolate giants. As a result, these nations have become infamous for employing child slaves to work for cheap labour.

Children Playing in Ghana

The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry

Yes, there’s a dark side beyond your favourite dark chocolate. Chocolate giants such as Mars, Nestlé and Hershey have all denied supporting child slavery and unfair practices from their suppliers. The around 75% of the chocolate consumed in the United States is sourced directly from the Ivory Coast, which is known for its child slavery issues.

Although you may not have known about any of these issues, it is not exactly a secret either, many reporters have visited the Ivory Coast in an attempt to bring exposure to this awful situation.

The nation’s government officials have been less than pleased to say the least with people trying to expose their practices. Officials have detained numerous journalists, who are looking to expose the dark side of the cocoa industry. Nowdays It is a big secret for many people.

In addition, films have covered Ivory Coast’s unethical slave practices. For example, the 2006 film Blood Diamond which brought exposure to nation’s issues of soldiers and child slaves.

Despite all this exposure, it is still estimated that well over 100,000 children live their lives as slaves in the nation. It’s hard to imagine how this comes about when it is not a reality for most of us. There are numerous ways that lead these children down the path of slavery.

Child slavery

Boy working as slave in plantation

Some children are sold into slavery by their family members or Parents who desperately need the money. Others are kidnapped off the street by men in fancy cars who promise them wealth and prosperity.

The vulnerable children often believe them and end up in this dark occupation, if you can even call it that. The interesting thing is the value of a person here. Many children who are sold into slavery are bought for a sum as little as $30. What would you estimate your life to be worth? 

The Working Conditions For Child Slaves in the Chocolate Industry

You’re probably curious, as I was myself, what this path of slavery is really like for the children. What’s their 9 to 5? Well, they don’t have one, they are sent to a remote cocoa plantation, forced to work for 12 hours with very little food whilst they harvest cocoa beans.

The children are ordered to climb the cocoa trees and hack them open using a machete. It is not just exhausting, underpaid work but also highly dangerous. 

Working with these kinds of dangerous tools means that the children regularly incur scars and gashes. Alongside the accidental industries, the people above the slaves have been known to act out violently on a regular basis to discipline the inefficient slaves.

It’s horrendous! imagine the horrific conditions that are both dangerous, cruel and can deplete the child’s health both physically and mentally. 

As a result, many children run away. Although, they have far to go when they do as many farms are at least a few hundred miles away from the nearest town and are surrounded by densely forested terrain.

Slavery is the only life that many children of these nations know and many do not even think of escaping. Escape is not an option, if their escape plan is not successful it will bring more pain and suffering.

How Does This Happen?

You’re probably asking yourself; how does this happen; how do they get away with it? The answer is the same as the fast fashion issue really and that is that it is far from home, we don’t think about it and no one brings enough attention to it to stop the problem.

In addition, regulations are so relaxed in these nations. The practice of child slavery is illegal across the world since the 1989 Convention of Rights of the Child. 

The Governments of these nations and the giant chocolate companies have worked hard on keeping all of this quiet. They shut those down who speak up about the big secret and bribe whoever they have to.

Why? Well, because if people knew they were linked to child slavery, they would no longer buy their products. 

There’s a dark side beyond your favourite chocolate, child slavery.

Do I Have to Quit Chocolate?

Don’t speak such blasphemy! We all love chocolate and should not have to give it up. There are alternatives to just about anything. Not all chocolate is unethical.

There are some chocolate brands out there who disagree with these unethical practices and in turn are ethical and delicious. Some include Toni’s Chocoloney, Mama Ganache, Camino, Equal Exchange among many more. In order to determine whether your chocolate is ethical, you just have to research and ask questions. 

Tony's an ethical chocolate

It’s all about being a smart consumer. Once you know that your chocolate is ethical, you can happily devour it and have the satisfaction of knowing in your heart, it was slave-free! Afterall, you will enjoy your chocolate much more knowing that no one suffered during the process of making it.

If you want to find out more about the dark side of the chocolate industry, watch the movie Blood Diamond.

There are many documentaries out there about this industry and slavery as a whole. 

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