Willy Wonka’s slave use

No, not Oompa Loompas

Last week I brought you into the world of child slavery by showing the coffee industry in a light not usually seen by the public. This week, the saga will continue with an exposé of the chocolate industry. Sadly, it doesn’t get better.

CNN’s Project Freedom explores the world of slavery, and exposes the chocolate industry through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy who already has three years of experience working on the plantation.

The report of this little boy, Abdul, ends on a semi-good feeling, showing some of the leading national brands gathering together to sign an agreement to stop slavery. This agreement is only about as valuable as the paper it is printed on. SlaveFreeChocolate.org claims that the initial agreement between the chocolate companies to wipe out slavery is absolutely useless. CNN’s site says the same thing. A promise is just words without an action.

Many children and laborers on the farms used for chocolate are slaves. CNN reports that nearly 200,000 children work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast alone. These children are left with scars from machetes and mental wounds from not being able to go to school or be “normal children.” In Abdul’s interview, he says he doesn’t even know why they’re harvesting cocoa, and he’s never had chocolate before. He works because he’s being made to work.

In 2001, Eliot Engel, a representative from the state of New York, tried to pass a bill that would reform the chocolate industry. While it did expose the industry for what it was, it failed to pass into law. The bill was stopped by hired lobbyists for the candy company, and Bob Dole (a previous presidential candidate) was mentioned as being the main lobbyist.

That same year, the major chocolate companies, under pressure from lobbyists and protestors, agreed to set terms for labor laws in the candy industry. While it looks good on the surface, refer to paragraph two: it’s useless. Almost all the chocolate on the market today comes from slaves. All of the major brands including Hersey, Nestle and Mars use slave chocolate.

The average American will eat almost 11 pounds of chocolate a year. It takes 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate. Chocolate beans are harvested exclusively by hand in hot, humid weather with little to no remorse for work conditions. Injuries are frequent, pay is little if anything, and it all goes to make a 98 cent candy bar for you to eat. When these poor souls do get paid, they typically make about $6 a day–again, if they get paid at all.

These articles I’ve written were meant to educate, not infuriate. I’m not sure if anyone can write a response back in favor of slavery, anywhere. I wrote these because coffee, chocolate and many, many other products we use each and every day were built on the backs of the helpless, impoverished and exploited.

I want you to be aware of what you’re doing by supporting companies that support slavery. I want you to know the actions or inactions you do daily affect hundreds of other people around the globe.

One person changing his tune won’t make the symphony stop, but if we combine our voices, we can change the whole damned movement of the world’s orchestra.