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Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

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Slavery in the Chocolate Industry
Forty-five percent of the chocolate we consume in the United States and in the rest of the world is made from cocoa beans grown and harvested on farms in the Ivory Coast, a small nation on the western coast of Africa. Few realize that a portion of the Ivory Coast cocoa beans that goes into the chocolate we eat was grown and harvested by slave children. The slaves are boys between 12 and 16—but sometimes as young as 9—who are kidnapped from villages in surrounding nations and sold to the cocoa farmers by traffickers. The farmers whip, beat, and starve the boys to force them to do the hot, difficult work of clearing the fields, harvesting the beans, and drying them in the sun. The boys work from sunrise to sunset. Some are locked in at night in windowless rooms where they sleep on bare wooden planks. Far from home, unsure of their location, unable to speak the language, isolated in rural areas, and threatened with harsh beatings if they try to get away, the boys rarely attempt to escape their nightmare situation. Those who do try are usually caught, severely beaten as an example to others, and then locked in solitary confinement. Every year unknown numbers of these boys die or are killed on the cocoa farms that supply our chocolate.
The plight of the enslaved children was first widely publicized at the turn of the twenty-first century when True Vision, a British television company, took videos of slave boys working on Ivory Coast farms and made a documentary depicting the sufferings of the boys. In September 2000, the documentary was broadcast in Great Britain, the United States, and other parts of the world. The U.S. State Department, in its Year 2001 Human Rights Report, estimated that about 15,000 children from the neighboring nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo had been sold into slavery to labor on Ivory Coast…...

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