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Child Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

Autor:   •  January 26, 2019  •  Research Paper  •  5,071 Words (21 Pages)  •  89 Views

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Child Slavery in the Chocolate Industry: 2017 Update

On March 1, 2016, Fortune Magazine published an article describing how thousands of children, mostly boys, were being forced to work as slaves on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a small nation on the eastern coast of northern Africa.  Transported into the Ivory Coast by traffickers, the enslaved boys were imprisoned a night and forced by day to labor at the dangerous and gruellingly hard work involved in growing and harvesting the African cocoa that is the major ingredient in virtually all the chocolates that Hershey, Nestle, Mars, and the other major chocolate manufacturers sell in the United States and Europe.

By the time Fortune Magazine published its story, numerous media investigations had already documented how children—boys between the ages of 9 and 16—are forced to work without pay on the numerous small (1 to 3 acres) cocoa farms of west Africa.[1] The enslaved boys are typically kidnapped from villages in surrounding nations and sold to the cocoa farmers by traffickers, although some are sold to the traffickers by their own desperately poor parents who are promised that the boys will learn a craft and will return to help support their families.[2]  The farmers whip, beat, and starve the boys to force them to do the hot, difficult, and hazardous work of clearing the fields, harvesting the beans, and drying them in the sun.  Some of the children are forced to use chainsaws to clear the forests; others have to climb to the top of the cocoa trees where they chop off the bean pods using a machete; still others are taught to hold a large cocoa pod in one hand and swing a sharpened machete at it to slice it open so the beans can be scooped out. During harvest time the boys struggle to carry 100 pound bags that are larger than themselves and filled with cocoa pods. The boys must work from sunrise to sunset.  Most are locked in at night in windowless rooms where they sleep on bare wooden planks.  Far from home, unsure of their location, unable to speak the language, isolated in rural areas, and threatened with harsh beatings if they try to get away, the boys rarely attempt to escape their nightmare situation.  Those who do try are usually caught, severely beaten as an example to the others, and then locked in solitary confinement. Every year unknown numbers of these boys die or are killed on the cocoa farms that supply our chocolate.

The plight of the enslaved children was widely publicized for the first time at the turn of the twenty-first century when True Vision, a British television company, took videos of slave boys working on Ivory Coast farms and made a documentary depicting the hardships and sufferings of the boys. In September 2000, the True Vision documentary was broadcast in Great Britain, the United States, and other parts of the world. The U.S. State Department, in its Year 2001 Human Rights Report, estimated then that about 15,000 children from the neighboring nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo had been trafficked and sold as slaves to labor on Ivory Coast cocoa farms.  Surprisingly, perhaps, the chocolate companies already knew that children were being used as slaves in their supply lines when the True Vision documentary first aired.  This became clear when the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a trade group of U.S. chocolate manufacturers (whose members include Hershey, Mars, Nestlé, and others), admitted to newspapers after the documentary appeared, that they had been aware of the use of slave boys on Ivory Coast cocoa farms for some time. Pressured by various antislavery groups, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association stated on June 22, 2001 that the industry “condemned” “these practices” and that it would fund a “study” of the situation.

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