Much of our decadent chocolate flows from the veins of children through the practice of child trafficking and enslaved child labor. Approximately 43 percent of the worlds cocoa bean supply comes straight from the Ivory Coast and 17 percent from Ghana. That derives 60 percent of the world’s chocolate from those two locations. In the Ivory Coast, one third of the nation’seconomy is fueled by profits made from the 600,000 cocoa farms in the country.These cocoa beans supply many of the well-known corporations and the industry of chocolate is one that generates 80 billion dollars a year.And much of this chocolate is riddled with the marks of child trafficking. To be fair, chocolate companies have made an initiative to stop this kind of slavery from happening. Many chocolate companies and two senators came together to formulate a protocol which agreed to eliminate many forms of child labor. This protocol was known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, named after the two senators that helped draft it. This contract, if you will, was signed in September of 2001. But even now the practice has not been completely abolished and progress is very slow to come. We as Americans are number one in the arena of chocolate consumption.We are the most culpable for advocating these procedures. And every time we rip open a Hershey’s, Mars, Godiva, or other chocolate bar that has not been approved by Fair Trade we are promoting this economy that has enslaved about 3.6 million African children and forces them to labor long treacherous hours, with no education, proper clothing, food, and most importantly no childhood. Through these statistics one can only begin to develop a mere framework that can be used to understand the magnitude of this ethical crisis.Which approach shall we take in order to amend for these problems? Is the answer truly that clear? The response to that question is yes. Let us imagine ourselves as a slave. A seven year old taken from their home who will never see their family again. You will never know what it is like to play, to learn, to experience a relative happiness. You will never attend a school to expand your horizons of thought and understanding. You life will consist of reoccurring beatings, violations of your rights, and ultimately fear of other human beings. Most contradictory, however, is that you will never taste the product you have sacrificed your life and childhood for. You will never experience that luscious cocoa running down your throat. And you will most likely never meet the people who so ignorantly promote the life you are living. When looking at it from this perspective, the answer to the ethical dilemma is very clear. Stop this lucid infringement of the autonomy of a human soul. Stop child trafficking in the chocolate business. And stop it now.
In the Ivory Coast, a 10 year-old slave boy carries a fifty pound bag of cocoa beans. He accidentally trips over a rock while walking the unpaved route. Immediately the boy begins to cower in fear. He knows what is to come; he has known it for many years now. His life has consisted of these experiences time and time again. There is nothing more to look to. There is no hope of freedom. No hope of a future. No hope of escape. And through the eyes of this boy we see the conditioning of pain. Of unexplainable suffering.We see a dimness that we ourselves could never understand. This boy has sacrificed the light in his eyes just for us to experience a moment of sparkle in ours. When we look at his face, we can witness the deep void in his heart. It reflects the aura of innocence that has been stripped from the seams. We would never want to think of ourselves as beings capable of instilling fear in the hearts of children, much like our own. We would never want to come across the guilt ofknowing that we allowed this kind of dehumanization to occur for a product that is known to instill happiness in hearts but is doing quite the contrary. This product, a simple delightful piece of chocolate that paints smiles onthe faces of our own children, is the culprit that wipes the innocence and laughter off the face of another. Is it not in our best interest to stop advocating a practice so outdated? A practice we outlawed with our own hands? It is our duty to protect those that needed most. Our concept of innocence is continually evaporating. Guiltless children have suffered at the expense of our indulgences in a product tainted with sweat and blood. Would we want our own children to be taken from our homes just to make others we have never met, happy?When we have the resources to make sure that humans are not used as tools, why not put those resources to use? We as the customers have the power within us to drive these corporations to realize their evil deeds. We bring in their profit. And once their profit is cut off, by means of boycotting their products, the corporations will have no choice but to reevaluate their cocoa-gathering techniques. Although this issue is of a complex nature, if one attempts to make a change rather than stay stagnant, it can make an incredible difference. Every time we engage in any action, even as simple as buying an innocent bar of chocolate, we must think before we purchase. We must think of what our money is actually buying. Is it buying the lifetime slavery of other human beings who too have desires, hopes and dreams? Is it promoting actions we have already labeled unethical through our laws? Are we going to turn a blind eye to this clear violation of human rights as long as we get our lovely chocolate, or are we going to stand up to these immoral practices that we could put a stop to through the power we have as consumers? As we return to our story we find the 10 year old boy on the ground who watches as the slaveholder walks up to him. The fear in his eyes peak and the cold, detached yet angry stare given by the slaveholder only accentuates that fear. The contrast is between the two is vividly clear. And as it has, time and time again, the whip comes down hard. The whip we unknowingly advocate. The whip we unknowingly yield. The whip we unknowingly hold the power to stop.