Chocolate industry exploiting child labor

We support what we buy, and as a civilization we can do better than this. It’s not just a matter of children harvesting cocoa instead of going to school. There’s also trafficking in non-voluntary child labor. Targeted boycotts of selected companies are one way for people to pressure corporations to improve working conditions with clean water and schooling; but that’s only part of it. At some point, civilized people have to go in to these corrupt pest-holes and hang the slave traders.

UPDATE: Nestlé becomes first food company to partner with the Fair Labor Association; Nestle ‘to act over child labour in cocoa industry’


4 Replies to “Chocolate industry exploiting child labor”

  1. Opposing slavery, I can get behind whole heartedly; conflating it completely with child labor makes me distrust those offering the information, and wonder what “details” got left out. Things like “how common is this?” “how common are dangerous working conditions?” and “what do you mean by dangerous, specifically?” (A ten year old with a machete sounds pretty dangerous to me…but I remember playing with the one my folks had for clearing weeds at a younger age than that.)

    Since it’s BBC, I already know that they’re not going to work out actual frequency, or seeing if they can find suppliers that don’t use slaves; that’s as improbable as them mentioning that slavery is (horrifically) common in Africa, or that Bush fought human trafficking like a demon.

    They probably won’t even bring up things like the freaking human sacrifice problem Uganda (and probably other areas) have. Their outrage meter pegs at such a low level that it’s hard to get useful information.

    (mini-rant: If harvesting cocoa is anything like the types of non-mechanized harvesting I’m familiar with, then kids doing it are learning — and something that will improve their lives, which isn’t assured in an exported western classroom, especially one set up by folks willing to conflate slavery with kids working at all, and who don’t understand that even “unskilled” agricultural work is a learned skill.)

    I grew up doing work that the BBC would be horrified by; I still pack the pocket knife I got when I was seven or so, I got a rifle for vermin hunting when I turned ten, I was running an inverter totally alone at 14, have sprayed for weeds and used a flamethrower to get rid of weeds as a child.

    If globe-trotting type folks actually gave a crud, they’d push for the businesses to inspect their suppliers and certify that they use acceptable practices, rather than going “we found slavery in some villages in this area, and businesses buy from this area! BOYCOTT!!!!”

    1. Wikipedia has an article on Children in cocoa production – don’t know if the references are complete, or if those that are their are accurate. Children working on the family farm wouldn’t bother me. The big problem is the slavery, the trade that makes it profitable, and the corrupt African kleptocracies that allow it. Of course human sacrifice is worse. Now we have troops in Uganda. Hopefully they won’t be trained to respect the native customs.

      1. At a quick look-over, it seems the sources are either the BBC, or stories that say “hey, there’s slavery around here!” and more rah-rah for other people to take symbolic measures on the grounds of collective guilt. (Part of why I hate wikipedia.)

        Sadly, the corrupt kleptocracies are the root of the whole problem– or the dehumanization of folks, depending on which you want to consider the starting point.

  2. Before you blame the chocolate buyers, you have to ask what those kids lives would be like without the chocolate buyers. Would they be better or worse off? I don’t really know the answer to that, but let’s look at the alternatives. If they are worse off with the company there, then they are genuinely slaves, not allowed to leave and forced to work through threat of violence. This is criminal activity and if it’s the case, then it should be addressed through legal means and some of those chocolate execs should go to prison for conspiring with slavers.

    More likely, the children are there voluntarily and working because they get paid. In this case they are actually better off with the chocolate buyers than they would be otherwise. It hardly seems fair to condemn the chocolate buyers for making their lives better-but-not-good-enough. This is the kind of reasoning that is destroying free enterprise: instead of letting the market control prices, we impose our own idea of what makes a “fair” price.

    If you think those kids need more than the chocolate buyers are giving them, then the answer is not to pound on the chocolate buyers but to help the kids yourself. On the other hand, there are lots of other poor people who don’t have chocolate to sell who probably need your help more.

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