This Halloween, you may be considering which scary costume to wear, which pumpkin will get the spookiest reaction, or which yummy sweets to give to children who go trick-or-treating.
But what’s truly the scariest part of Halloween is the increased use of children as slave labour in cacao plantations – forced to work, denied education and often physically beaten and abused. All to fulfill our society’s demand for cheap chocolate.
Child slavery vs child labour
There are around 2 million children being exploited in West Africa, where the majority of the world’s cacao beans are from.
In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the world’s largest cocoa-producing countries, around 95% of child labour in cocoa production constitutes the worst forms of child labour, according to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).
That means we’re not just talking about child labour, which deprives children of their childhood and damages their physical and psychological development, but also the sexual exploitation of children.
Cocoa’s bitter truth
When we talk about cocoa production, we’re often talking about child slavery, the worst form of child labour, where exploitation is enforced for personal gain or profit. It means that the children have no choice or way to leave the situation and this includes child trafficking where children are transported, recruited or harboured for the purpose of exploitation.
Although there has been an increase in awareness over the last two decades, including the introduction of projects by companies to increase transparency to help combat this issue, the chocolate industry continues to be plagued by the exploitation of children in the production of cocoa.
What you can do
It doesn’t have to be like this. One of the simplest and easiest ways you can help is to buy chocolate that is free from child slavery. One way to do this is by looking at the Chocolate Scorecard, produced by an alliance of NGOs and academics, that rates the ethical credentials of leading global chocolate brands and gives them an overall score.
If you are a UK consumer, before buying from a big company, you can also check if they are on the modern slavery register and what they say. For example, have they sought help from Slave-Free Alliance? If they are not on the register, reach out to them and ask why not! You can access the register here: https://modern-slavery-statement-registry.service.gov.uk/search