On this Valentine's Day the unfortunate truth is that many Americans are often going to unknowingly help continue the violent cycle of child slavery and human trafficking if they purchase chocolate to give as a gift.
About 43% of the world's supply of the cocoa beans from which chocolate is produced comes from the politically troubled Cote d'Ivory (English Ivory Coast). Although a long running violent war between the government in Cote d'Ivory and rebel militias was largely resolved by a peace agreement in 2007, after years of both UN and French peacekeeping and pressures to resolve the conflict, ugly problems such as child slavery and human trafficking still flourish in this West African nation.
Consumers who care about the welfare of children in West Africa should even consider a consumer boycott of any chocolate products not labeled as coming from a "fair trade" source until these serious human rights problems are resolved in Cote d'Ivory as morally the only real option.
Often starving young boys in neighboring Mali are known for hanging around near bus stations begging for food, and are then recruited by slavers for what they believe to be a job opportunity that promises them food, money and a place to live. Instead they are then sold to farmers in Cote d'Ivory, and American and European chocolate manufacturers only openly allow this cycle of child slavery and human trafficking to continue because it dramatically cuts their labor costs and enhances their profits.
Most American chocolate manufacturers are openly guilty of allowing this to continue and have done little to stop the problems outside of some voluntary program of limited farm inspections devised by the U.S. Chocolate Manufacturers Association to avoid tougher legislation from Congress.
The problem of human trafficking and child slavery is so widespread that an estimated 200,000 children may be entrapped in such a violent system within just the West Africa area according to UNICEF. The Child Labor Coalition estimates that 600,000 Cocoa farms currently exist in Cote d'Ivory, with thousands of children likely largely enslaved on these cocoa farms by the farmowners. Beatings, sexual abuse, and a poor diet usually consisting of little more than a little corn paste for the child workers are only part of the horrible and inhumane treatments tolerated by major American chocolate manufacturers because it lowers their manufacturing costs.
Americans annually spend around $13 billion a year on chocolate. And holidays such as Halloween and Valentine's Day only help to drive up the American consumer demand that helps to drive the child slavery and human trafficking problems that fuel the need for the raw cocoa products that the American chocolate industry requires. The American chocolate industry lobby even helped to kill a bill in 2001 that would have added language to the 2001 Agricultural Appropriations bill that required that any cocoa imports be labeled as not coming from a child slavery source.
Instead the U.S. Chocolate Manufacturers Association was allowed to take up some voluntary actions through something known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol to clean up the worst of farm labor problems somewhat. However, only about 3,000 of the 600,000 estimated cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivory are investigated each year by this voluntary U.S. chocolate manufacturers program, still leaving the problem of child slavery in the West African cocoa industry as largely unresolved.
Happy Valentine's Day.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!