Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Bitter Taste of Chocolate

The chocolate industry is worth over $100 billion annually as we gobble up millions of tons of chocolate every year. But there's a secret, bitter ingredient hidden deep inside of the smooth, indulgent sweetness that most of us crave so often. What's the secret? That so much of it is STILL produced using child slave labor.

In countries like the Ivory Coast, hundreds of thousands of children work in harsh, dangerous conditions to harvest cocoa beans. These children are trafficked or forced into labor, sometimes working 12-14 hours a day wielding machetes to cut cocoa pods from trees, facing threats and physical abuse to keep them moving. This rampant child exploitation is what powers the global chocolate industry, fueled by high demand for cheap cocoa to produce more, and more, and more.

Despite decades of promises by industry giants like Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey to end child labor in their supply chains, little has changed. As recently as the 2020s, myriad reports found that child labor was still common in West African cocoa farming. Why have these companies failed to deliver on their pledges? Largely because ending child labor would cut into their already obscene profits. Stronger action—like paying cocoa farmers fair prices and ensuring fair wages and safe conditions—costs money that might prevent a chocolate baron from buying a sixth superyacht. It is far cheaper to maintain the status quo, turning a blind eye to the abuse and simply issuing new promises to address the problem each time it's exposed.

This is a global injustice. Western consumers and corporations have leveraged disproportionate power over producers in developing nations, prioritizing low costs and high profits over basic human rights. Until we DEMAND change by insisting upon ethically-sourced chocolate from these billionaire chocolate barons, until companies are forced through regulations and consumer pressure to clean up their acts, the bitter truth will remain: the chocolate we love so much is too often produced by those whose suffering we continue to ignore. It's on us to stand up for what's right and use our democracy and our pocketbooks to reform this broken system.


If you've read this far, I'm wondering at which point you started suspecting that the above was AI-generated, or if you suspected at all. Don't get me wrong, I didn't just tell ChatGPT to "write me a blog post about child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire." I spent a couple of hours discussing and learning about the history and political structure of the Ivory Coast, finding out that country's GDP is peanuts compared to the annual revenues of the chocolate barons, and learning how quickly efforts in Congress to pass slave-free certification laws for chocolate are shot down. I made a web page about this more than 20 years ago and am dismayed to realize it's still as bad as it was then. It's been on my mind, what with heart-shaped boxes everywhere I look and Half-Price Chocolate Day, aka February 15, being right around the corner.

Still, it did give me something to blog about. I've been meaning to write on here for more than a year. Indeed, I have several drafts that I started but never finished -- with titles like, "My Pro-Life Abortion" (about the time a surgeon saved my life after a fallopian tube ruptured and I was bleeding to death internally, but I was begging him to save the baby or let me die with it as I was being wheeled into the operating room) and, "The Bonus Round (When You're Tired of Playing)" about some of my other narrow escapes from the hereafter, and how each era that followed has been another bonus round in this game of life. I'm on my fourth, by the way. 

I needed something to break the writer's block, and the previous paragraph should give you an idea about my mindframe, and why I felt that letting a very eloquent and skilled (albeit non-human) writer help me out of the corner I've painted myself into was a good way to try and come out of exile. 

Please visit to learn more and find ways to help put at least one thing right in this world of human suffering.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

By admitting that you are using ChatGPT, you just announced that your work is not original, and that the adjective and illustration choices were probably not yours either. As a retired lit teacher, I'm appalled at this development. We will never again be able to ascertain truth from lie on the internet, much less authorship.

Go back, Jim, it's a trap.