Documenting Slave-Made Chocolate
It is frustrating to write about the cocoa industry and the slave trade. Besides the fact that it seems impossible to end the crime (people sure do love their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!), there is very little documentation to back up an abolitionist’s claims.
I wish, and sometimes don’t wish, that there were more pictures to stick in people’s faces, video coverage to show to Oreo eaters, and scars to prove that this is modern slavery. Sweet food for the rich, imprisonment and beatings for the poor.
But there is very little documentation. And we know one reason why: reporters in Ivory Coast can’t get the word out.
For years now journalists have been aware of corruption in the cocoa industry that includes, but is not limited to, the use of child slaves. In 2004, a French journalist disappeared after being threatened for his reports on the cocoa farms. He was never found.
A few weeks ago, three more journalists were silenced when, following a report in the Ivorian newspaper Le Nouveau Corrier about the cocoa industry’s corrupt practices, they were arrested on charges of theft of public documents.
The journalists refused to name their sources, which they claimed were not stolen documents but rather individuals speaking by e-mail.
The corruption in the chocolate world affects all areas of Ivory Coast, including poor farmers, regulatory agencies, and highly ranked government officials. It can be difficult and dangerous to fight the people who traffick children into the country to work as slaves on the cocoa plantations.
After the July arrests, Change.org had an overwhelming success when they launched a petition for the journalists’ release that was signed by over 1,100 people. Ivory Coast has released the three reporters.
But the affects of the arrests cannot be understated. We wonder why we can eat our Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and so easily forget that they were made by child slaves, that there is almost 100% chance that a beaten, imprisoned boy stolen from his parents had something to do with our Cadbury eggs.
We can easily forget because no one is allowed to remind us.