Slavery in Chocolate Industry

Topics: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade, History of slavery Pages: 10 (3499 words) Published: February 13, 2011
Slavery in the Chocolate Industry


The forced labour of children in the Ivorian cocoa farms is at a distance from the glamourised candy producers such as Mars and Nestlé, and a universe away from the day-to-day consumers of chocolate. That such a quixotic market shares a commonality with the more exposed diamond market, for example, whose implication in the sale and involvement of guns in tribal cleansing has long been documented, drives home the reminder that our modern prosperity, usually reached and used with the best of consumer intentions, if not also the corporate, and even our harmless, insignificant indulgences sometimes owe themselves to an extremely complex source environment. In this paper we dissect the impasse of a much-loved industry's unpleasant, inadvertent underside in an objective and comprehensive method, rigorously applying the ancient, contemporary, and modern theories of ethics in our analysis, and drawing on practical precedents and goings-on in the business world to reinforce abstraction with cases and results.


Slavery is not an ancient artifact in our time, but a concealed certainty. Only 81 of the world's near 200 countries are signatories of United Nations legislation to actively fight against slavery (51) in the twenty-first century.

Velasquez values the domestic American chocolate market at $13 billion, a figure made possible by trading in more than half a million tons of chocolate's source crop (cocoa beans) in the year 2000 alone (52). Most of this cocoa is harvested in West Africa, the regional capital of the world for the produce (52).

The scale of the forced labour is in the region of 200,000 adolescents and preadolescents dispersed among a million agricultural estates of cocoa (51, 52). Those million plantations belong to the single two countries where the situation is most intensified (the Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire) which together are responsible for nearly 50 percent of global annual chocolate production (52, 51). It is not only slavery but the slave trade itself that continues to exist in this region; the labour is smuggled in from adjacent West African states, an operation facilitated by poorly secured state lines and corruption among border police and customs officers alike (51).

Governmental commissions (e.g. the United States Department of State), the international community (United Nations Children's Fund, International Labour Organisation) and even free media segments (Knight Ridder) gave official accounts of the abject and inhumane situation of the child labourers. Much as was the practice in medieval West Africa they are captives or abductees of mercenary dealers (children being the easiest targets) who for payment supply them to plantation landlords. From then on, the landlords' labour offers profit without expense; they treat their grim cargo essentially as beasts of burden, working them with no regard for their health or lives, giving them the bare minimum of food and shelter – and refusing them even that if they are uncooperative – and shutting them in like cattle when a day's work is done. The fact that the children are kept in isolation, and in any case are foreigners ethnically and linguistically, that their families are helpless or even complicit in their sale, and finally the fact that the most brutal possible abuse of recaptured escapees is used as a deterrent (51) all ensure that the vast majority are never heard from again, alive or dead, by the outside world.

Despite penetration into the atrocities by official lines, the horrific reality was not driven home to the public until the turn of the millennium when a television programme released insider footage of what life was like in the Ivorian cocoa plantations (51). The footage ran on national channels in several Western countries including the United States and ignited outrage at the world's leading chocolate-product corporations – all...
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