By Alec W, Franklin and Marshall College
Chocolate. We all love the rich, creamy taste, but what really goes into making that perfect chocolate bar?
About 70 percent of all cocoa is produced in West Africa from workers that get paid as low as 25 to 50 cents per hour. Even worse, a large amount of the workers are children, as more than 2 million are working on cacao farms, being stripped of their childhood. Instead of going to school, they work from early morning to evening so that the prices of cocoa beans can remain low. Some people say that we should eat more chocolate so that child labor is not needed to keep prices down, but the chocolate industry has grown rapidly over the last couple of years and studies by Tulane University have shown the exact opposite results. Between 2009 and 2014, child labor has actually increased 46 percent.
A documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, was made to show how large companies are supporting farmers who abuse workers. They even sued Nestlé with accusations of beatings, child labor, and salt being poured into wounds, along with other degrading actions. Many people purchasing products from companies like Nestlé are not even aware of the underlying human rights violations occurring. It is time to open our eyes and take action.
Millions of people celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, a day filled with couples opening heart shaped chocolate boxes filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of children. How romantic! If you did not take part in Valentine’s Day, instead of marching your lonesome self over to CVS to see what chocolate is on sale, consider the children that labored all day so that you could eat your feelings away. The overworked children have feelings too.
Americans eat about 18 billion dollars’ worth of chocolate every year. If we refuse to buy chocolate from the companies that are fueling child labor in West Africa, we can force them to get rid of this inhumane, cruel system. Many large companies are the problem because they need to keep the prices as low as possible to compete with other major brands. But is chocolate really more important than the well-being of a child?
Although one should not buy more chocolate, there is also no need to buy less. Rather, everyone should look into what companies are taking part in the human rights violations occurring to children every day in West Africa. Nestlé’s net worth is around 235 billion dollars so certainly they can find some money to spare to make sure that the workers in West Africa are getting paid a sufficient amount, resulting in less of a dependence on cheap child labor.
Before buying chocolate, research whether they are buying from farmers that use child labor. Chocolate is NOT more important than a human life.
A list of ethical chocolate companies can be found here: http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies/
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