Child Labor in the Chocolate Industry
History: Before chocolate became one of the most popular treats worldwide, chocolate has been prepared as a drink for centuries. For years chocolate was used as medicine to treat appendicitis pain and many other medical conditions. Chocolate is mostly produced and consumed in developed countries, like the United States. The cacao tree was first grown in Mesoamerica, and in many places, chocolate was a very popular desert. Chocolate is made from the fruit of cacao trees, and “each fruit pods contains around 40 cocoa beans”, which are harvested. There are many thorough steps that harvesters follow to prepare chocolate. “The cacao beans are first sifted for foreign objects. The cacao is weighed and sorted by type so that the manufacturer knows exactly what type of cacao is going into the chocolate. Next, the cacao beans are roasted in large, rotating ovens. Roasting lasts from half an hour up to two hours. Then the cacao beans are cracked and winnowed, that is, their outer shells are cracked and blown away, leaving the crushed and broken pieces of cacao beans. Finally the cacao nibs must now be crushed and ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor.” Chocolate has developed into a worldwide delicious desert that is very popular. Research by CNBC states “a $50 billion-a-year worldwide business with a market that rose 13% between 2010 and 2015. More than 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed worldwide annually, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. Global demand for chocolate continues to grow.” Through the globalization of Chocolate, there will most likely be a steady increase in the industry as more people consume it across the world.
Point 1: Child labor has led the chocolate industry down a dark path, where children experience bad working conditions, lack of education, and little or no pay. Many families in West Africa experience poverty, and harvesting is the only source of work. It is hard for children to get out of child labor because companies have power over them. Many chocolate companies use child labor as their resource, “including Hershey’s, Nestle, and Cadbury.”
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Child labor predominantly happens in Western Africa. Working in the fields does not give children the opportunity to go to school or live a normal life. Children work in dangerous plantations, “and there are over 2 million children working on cocoa plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone, more than 500,000 of them working under abusive conditions (Source: Tulane report 2015).” https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/human-rights-and-child-labour. People use dangerous tools, carry pounds of beans, are exposed to pesticides. Companies put chemicals on pods to preserve them. According to foodispower.org, “the industry doesn’t want people to know the truth about the chocolate industry. This makes it difficult for reporters to also let the public be aware of these issues.” Working starts when people are young, “ as most of the children laboring on cocoa farms are between the ages of 12 and 16, but reporters have found children as young as 5.”
The chocolate industry often keeps harvesters working for them. According to the 2015 edition of the Cocoa Barometer, many people make under $2 a day. Child labor in the cocoa industry involves the same core human rights violations as other forms of slavery throughout the world.
Point2: The chocolate industry is growing the deforestation problem, as illegal cocoa farms are using many protected forests. Traders who sell to companies get beans that have been grown illegally inside a protected land. Deforestation has been the number one cause of animal extinction. This is present in Africa, “where rainforests have been reduced more than 80% since 1960.” All of these companies say “they are working hard to eradicate this from their products,” According to The Guardian Research. Although companies say they are against this, the destruction of forests’ are still increasing. Since the industry is expanding, the need to preserve these forests’ is important. Deforestation and forest degradation isn’t just a problem in Africa, but happens in places including Indonesia and Peru where harvesting is active. The lost of forests is bad because this is the leading cause of climate change. According to EPA, “since fires produce carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, biomass burning emissions significantly influence the Earth’s atmosphere and climate. When cutting and burning trees, these toxins are released into the air adding to climate change and pollution.” Deforestation causes more harm than good on the environment which affects us through climate change.
Rebuttal: Despite the harmful child slavery and the destructive deforestation, many say the globalization of chocolate is positive because the process of making chocolate produces more money for other companies that are involved in the production of chocolate.